Talk To Me, Baby!


My little one is 16 months old and babbles constantly with a range of tones and emphasis. She is trying so hard to communicate with me and my husband, and we love it, even if we can’t understand what she’s saying. We answer her and ask her questions, talk to her when she pauses and allow her time to respond to us in her own baby language. It almost seems as if we’re all communicating in perfect sync. 
For years I was a Behavioral Interventionist (B.I.) working with children who have autism and I would sometimes work alongside their families, caregivers and teachers. Because most young children with autism have speech delays I was trained to teach basic sign language and language development. These were just some of the valuable tools I received while working as a B.I. that would offer me life long skills, particularly when it came time to parent.
I began signing with my daughter when she was as little as six months old, because she was becoming more aware of her surroundings and we were starting solid foods, which seemed like the perfect time to introduce “more” and “all done”. In the beginning I would simply model the signs along with the verbal command so she could pair the two. It wasn’t until her motor skills were becoming more perfected that I would do hand over hand on her so she could do the signs as well with my assistance, then offer her a chance to do it on her own. If she refused to do a sign and threw her food off the high hair instead of signing “all done”, I would do my best to pay little attention to the throwing of food (hoping that with no attention given, that she would be less likely to keep doing it) then help her do the sign for “all done” as I say it, remove the food, item, or activity that she is done with so that she begins to understand what it means. There are many resources online to help aide in teaching baby sign language, mine is only an example that worked for us. 
These days she does both signs all on her own like a pro! Lately, we’ve been working on “help”, “water” and “milk”, again helping her do the signs and verbalizing as well. Because she understands so much of what my husband and I say we have also been modeling head nods and shakes for yes and no. We also ask her to follow through with one-step commands to see how much she knows. We’re constantly surprised when the tasks become more complex. One day it’s “come here” or “give me”, then the next it’s “put your cup down on the table” and she’s doing it! 
We also don’t do the baby talk. We label things clearly so that when she does begin to talk she will know how to say things properly. Our tone also helps express right and wrong. We keep higher tones for praise and deeper tones to reprimand, but don’t increase volume. I’m an extremely animated person so I also involve a lot of facial expressions and body language when I talk and I can see she’s beginning to pick up on it. Watching her learn language is a beautiful journey as much as it can seem frustrating at times. One day she starts to copy a word and the next she refuses to ever say that word again. Talk to me, baby!


Expect To Have NO Expectations- A Birth Story

The joy of pregnancy was coming to an end. The cute baby bump was now a huge and very heavy watermelon. Picking out baby names had become repetative to the point where my husband and I agreed on a handful and decided not to pick one until she was born. The days were long, my nights were restless and the aches crept from limb to limb. My Braxton-Hicks, or practice contractions, were getting extremely uncomfortable and all I kept thinking was, ‘this isn’t even it yet, I’ll know when the contractions are real’.
Throughout all this discomfort the only thing I could think to do, besides complain, was to research natural ways to induce labor. Of course I immediately googled ‘inducing labor naturally’, and to my surprise there was plenty of information to scroll through. We tried everything except castor oil, primrose oil, acupuncture and a famous salad dressing from a restaurant in Los Angeles that I heard about from a friend and was unfortunately unaccessible. 
Everyday for the last week leading up to my due date, I tried something new; I ate spicy food and pineapple, drank red raspberry tea, had my husband give me hand and foot massages, danced in place, walked up and down stairs, went for long walks, nipple stimulation and sex. 
Two days before my due date my practice contractions got stronger, so I asked my husband to stay home from work incase I went into real labor, but as it were, the practice contractions subsided. My husband and I decided to run errands instead, finishing the evening out having dinner with family. We went home and to bed a little discouraged, but faithful that our baby would come when she was ready.
Then it happened that night at 3:30 in the morning, she was ready and so was I. My first real contraction woke me up and I began tracking how long each one lasted and the time between using a contraction tracking app on my phone. I tried to sleep between contractions, but my body was busy preparing for labor.
When morning came I got up to walk around and gather a few last minute items, our hospital bag had been packed for weeks, then before I knew it my contractions were five minutes apart, it was time to go to the hospital and meet our baby in a few hours, or so I thought. The drive to the hospital was rough, every bump and turn hurt, but the light at the end of the tunnel kept me calm and focused. 
We arrived at the hospital and to my surprise I walked to the maternity wing, stopping to have a few contractions along the way, and shorty after arriving I was checked by a nurse and a nurse in training, admitted, then taken to my room where the painful contractions continued. My doctor arrived a few hours later to break my water, which had apparently broke on its own, but was not noticeable to me because it had broken in a stop that didn’t cause much leakage the way I had expected it to. I got an epidural after thirteen hours into when the contractions began because I realized it was going to be a long labor and the pain was becoming exhausting. 
Because this was my first pregnancy I went into it with an open mind. As much as I was hoping to have a natural labor, I also knew that I shouldn’t feel ashamed if I decided to get an epidural. My mother always had pride in the fact that she had three all natural labors. My sister has three epidural aided labors, so I felt like whatever I chose to do was ok in my families eyes. 
I rested for a while as night fell, listened to Simon and Garfunkel on Pandora and finally felt a little relaxed. As the night continued, my nurse wasn’t able to track my babies heart rate as well as she needed to. My nurse attempted to attach an internal fetal heart monitor to my babies scalp, but she was unsuccessful, later finding out that my baby had so much hair that attaching an internal monitor just wasn’t going to latch properly. 
My babies heart rate was becoming irregular and was in obvious distress, so it was decided by the nurse and my doctor at 3:00 in the morning that the baby was in enough distress to prepare for an emergency c-section. This sent mixed emotions through me; although I should have mentally prepared for this, I never thought it would end like this. I come from a long line of child-baring women who could literally give birth naturally and without much help. 
I felt like my rite of passage of giving birth had been robbed from me, I felt like less of a woman and powerless. I was scared to have major surgery, even if c-sections happen multiples times a day and are performed almost effortlessly. I was excited that in a few moments I would finally meet my baby. Above everything, I knew that the c-section needed to happen immediately in order to keep my baby safe. My fear and anxiety had to take the back seat as I mentally prepared for what was about to happen. 
My amazing Doctor, who had always been somewhat of an intense, shoot from the hip, kind of woman, could tell that I was scared. A woman who I thought would yell “push that baby out now” if labor had ended the the way I imagined it would, was now calm and nurturing as she explained to me what was going to happen during the c-section. I felt at ease and in good hands as we made our way into the bright white operating room. 
We prepared for the surgery and my husband was taken to get into scrubs and clean up. I was pleasantly surprised to see my nurse, who had been with me all night, and my doctor in the O.R. Because I already had an epidural in, my preparation for surgery was quick and easy. My Doctor performed the surgery and before I knew it I heard what I had been waiting to hear for nine plus months, my babys’ beautiful cry.

The blue curtain shielded my view from my baby girl until my doctor raised her to show me how beautiful and healthy she was. She had a knot in her umbilical chord, which is why she went into distress. My husband got the first good look at her as she came into the world, and he looked at me with a big smile on his face and said, “she looks like a Madylan, babe”. Our baby girl was named and my husband went on to video record her first few minutes in the world as the nurses wiped her down and checked her vitals and APGAR. My husband cut her umbilical chord and the nurses wrapped her in a blanket (the O.R. was extremely cold) and brought her over to me as my doctor stitched me up while having a casual conversation with her assistant. 
I wish I could say that from this moment on I was in pure ecstasy, but unfortunately I was feeling the aftermath of my surgery and medication. I became extremely nauseous as I laid on the operating table and began to dry heave, as there was nothing in my system to through up. I had been awake and not eaten for over twenty-four hours, which wasn’t helping with my post surgery recovery. I began to shake uncontrollably from my waist up and was afraid to hold my baby without assistance. I was taken into the recovery room where a somewhat unsympathetic nurse was preparing me to nurse my baby for the first time. 
It turns out I have inverted nipples and needed to use nipple shields to help my baby latch on properly. I was still lying flat and shaking, my arms held close to my chest as I vibrated from my waist to my neck and into my shoulders and arms. Then, my mother-in-law being the angelic woman that she is, brought my baby to me and held her close to me, cheek to cheek, and in that instant, like magic, I stopped shaking and was able to hold my baby in my arms for the first time. I was in heaven, this feeling was surreal and my mothering instinct kicked in and took over. 

I never wanted to let her go and all I wanted to do was kiss her face and watch her sleep. This was what I had been waiting for all this time. Pure love, bliss, patience, strength and more love; pure positivity was running through me as I held my beautiful daughter.