The “Baby Tax” List

So your sweet little cherub finally came into this world and has subsequently turned it upside down! You’re not sure what time it is, let alone what day. You think you showered yesterday but can’t remember for sure. And those leftovers in the fridge — are those from two days ago or two weeks ago? You know that you should sleep while the baby is sleeping, but if you could just wash the dishes flowing all over the countertop everything would feel a little better.

You finally lie down, mentally calculating how much sleep you will get if you fall asleep instantaneously (I call this Sleep Math), and your phone rings. You’re immediately annoyed because who has the audacity to call a new parent who is trying to sleep?! Then a heavy dose of guilt shimmies up your spine because it is your wonderful auntie who would like to come and meet the baby. “Sure,” you sigh, when she asks if now is an OK time to visit. “Can I help with anything while I’m there?” she graciously offers, because although it has been many years, she too was once a new momma.

Any savvy new parent understands that they have in their home something powerful: a baby. Like a moth to a flame, friends and family flock to the sweet smell of a tiny baby head. Many members of our “village” are undeterred by sleeping parents and feeding schedules; they are jonesing for some time snuggling your new bundle of joy.

While I always advocate for healthy boundaries in the postpartum period, I believe this is a wonderful opportunity to harness your power! Now is the time to leverage it to help meet your needs. Enter the “Baby Tax” List! Believe it or not, this very simple concept can pay huge dividends for new parents.

In a visible place in your home (like a chalkboard or a piece of paper on your fridge), write down some things that you need done. Think of this as a chore list where your visitors earn the reward of time spent with you and/or your baby. In other words, your visitor pays you a “baby tax” by folding some laundry first before getting to hold the baby.

This is a handy tool for everyone involved. In the early postpartum days, many members of our support network make offers saying things like, “Let me know if I can help,” and “Call me if you need anything.” But in our foggy, sleep-deprived, new parent minds, it can be hard to ask for help. Plus, we want everyone to know we’ve got everything under control, right?!

The reality is life postpartum is really difficult and it is in our (and our babies’) best interest to access and use our resources. It is OK to accept offers of support! A Baby Tax List takes the awkwardness away from asking for help. In fact, the really savvy members of your village will see the list and complete some items without having been asked.

You’ve got a lot on your plate, friends! Share the burden of your load and you will appreciate the small reprieve. Besides, that sweet auntie of yours wants to help. If you think about it, you just might be doing her the favor.

Here are some ideas to get your list started:

  • Bring a healthy prepared or frozen meal
  • Order carry-out
  • Make mom/dad a hot meal and let them eat it while it’s hot!
    (**Bonus points if the visitor makes a hot cup of coffee too.)
  • Take out the trash
  • Launder baby’s clothes or help with other laundry
  • Vacuum
  • Wash the dishes
  • Sterilize bottles and/or pump parts
  • Shovel the drive/walkway (Ugh! Winter is here.)
  • Walk the dog
  • Clean the bathroom
  • Change the bedding
  • Rub mom’s feet
  • Hold the baby while I shower/sleep/read/eat bon bons in the closet
  • Take big brother/sister out for a special treat
  • Hang out with baby while I go for a walk alone
  • Let me go to the gym without the added workout of carrying a car seat
  • Pick up ___________ from the grocery store (Insert 1 or 100 things that you need/want)
  • Run errands
  • Fix the leaky faucet in the bathroom
  • If you love me, let me nap!

As you can see, the list is only limited by your own imagination! The Baby Tax List is a light-hearted, cheeky way to remind our friends and family that we love them and we need/appreciate their support. What would you like some help with? Add it to the list and share this with all the parents that could use some help.

– Nichole Enerson is the Parenting Program postpartum adjustment coordinator in Royal Oak. She adores her teenage children who finally sleep more than she does. She survived postpartum anxiety through the support and grace of her beloved husband and family!

You’ll Never Be Prepared To Become A Parent

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No matter how “prepared” I thought I was to be a parent, I wasn’t. I became a mom at 35, so I watched friends and family have kids. Before my kids came into my life, I would say to myself, “When I’m a parent, I’m going to do [fill in the blank].”

Oh, honey. No, you’re not.

Being a parent is the single hardest thing I’ll do in my life. The fact that my kids are twins adds a whole new dimension. But there are a few things I wish I had known or thoroughly understood before holding my two little bundles of joy.

There will come a time when bodily fluids won’t gross you out. My little girl had reflux, so being covered in spit up regularly was par for the course. Remember that show, “You Can’t Do That on Television”? The one where everyone got slimed? Yeah, that was our house. Also, we have a boy. Catching pee so it didn’t hit the TV remote or the leather couch became the norm as well. Note: Spit up and pee aren’t even the grossest things that can happen in a day.

You will mourn your old life and that’s okay. It wasn’t easy for me to adjust to the life of a mom with twins. I thought I’d be able to do all the things I usually do, just with two babies in tow. That doesn’t work out at the beginning; or right now, actually. With feeding schedules and naps, the winter cold and sicknesses, my personal life changed drastically. But even though it’s not the same, it’s better now. It took me a while to get there, but here I am. Late, as moms of twins tend to be.

You do not know the meaning of the phrase, “sleep deprivation.” You don’t. Just accept that. At first my kids fed every two hours. They took 30 minutes to eat and 30 minutes to sit up and digest. An hour later we were back at it. We still get woken up at night, but nothing a re-tucking of the covers won’t fix. I am assured that one day, I will wake up AFTER the sun has risen. One day.

Hot food is a luxury. I think I’m just used to eating lukewarm or cold food now. By the time dinner is ready and you get everyone in their seats with bibs and cups, cut up their food, serve your own, get whatever they dropped on the floor, sit down and get back up to get something else, your food is cold. When you get the chance to eat hot food, take it.

You will be surprised that you are capable of feeling so intensely. It might not come right away, but soon enough, you’ll be so in love with your kids that you can’t imagine anything you wouldn’t do for them—including not flinching when someone hands you a half-chewed olive at the dinner table during your mother-in-law’s birthday party.

—Rebecca Calappi, Publications Coordinator at Beaumont Health System and adoptive parent of multiples

8 Things You Should Know About Colds, Flu and Antibiotics

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Besides sharing recent holiday cheer, many shared viruses too. Knowing when antibiotics will help – and when they won’t – is key to preventing antibiotic resistance.

“We all need to remain smart about antibiotic use, and by ‘we,’ I mean doctors, nurses and patients,” says Christopher Carpenter, M.D., director of Beaumont’s Antimicrobial Stewardship Program. “We have a program that promotes appropriate antibiotic use in the hospital and with the help of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Michigan Antibiotic Resistance Reduction Coalition we are providing materials and education to encourage appropriate outpatient use in our Emergency Center and doctors’ offices.”

The CDC offers the following facts and tips:

  1. Colds, fl u and most sore throats and bronchitis are caused by viruses. Antibiotics do not help and may do more harm than good by increasing the risk of a resistant infection later.
  2. Antibiotic resistance – the development of “superbugs” that are resistant to available drugs – has been called one of the world’s most pressing public health problems.
  3. When antibiotics fail to work, the consequences are: longer-lasting illnesses; more doctor visits or extended hospital stays; and the need for more expensive and toxic medications. Some resistant infections can cause death.
  4. Children are of particular concern because they have the highest rates of antibiotic use. They also have the highest rate of infections caused by antibiotic-resistant “bugs.”
  5. Patients should not demand antibiotics when a health care provider has determined they are not needed.
  6. When an antibiotic is prescribed, take all of it, even if symptoms dis appear. If treatment stops too soon, some bacteria may survive and reinfect.
  7. The spread of viral infections like cold and fl u can be reduced through frequent handwashing and by avoiding close contact with others.
  8. Viral infections sometimes lead to bacterial infections. Keep your health care provider informed if your illness gets worse or lasts a long time.

8 Myths and Facts about Postpartum Depression

Myth #1: Postpartum depression is a normal part of motherhood. All new mothers experience exhaustion and mood swings.

Fact: It is important to be aware of the three types of mood changes associated with childbirth. While it is true that new mothers are likely to feel overwhelmed and sleep deprived in the early weeks after having a baby, this is most likely the Baby Blues which is experienced by 70-80% of women. The Baby Blues is not considered a disorder and generally does not require treatment. Symptoms such as tearfulness, mood swings, lack of concentration, mild anxiety and irritability, begin within the first week postpartum and can persist until baby is about 3 weeks old. This is caused by the major lifestyle change and changing hormone levels that are present during this time in a woman’s life.

We become concerned that a mother may be experiencing more than the Baby Blues, when symptoms are still present after that third to fourth week postpartum. Postpartum depression (PPD) is a serious, yet common medical condition (occurs in 10-20 percent or 1 in 7 new mothers) and can occur any time in a mother’s first postpartum year. Symptoms typically include uncontrollable crying, irritability, poor concentration, anxiety, hopelessness, feelings of failure, guilt, intrusive and disturbing thoughts, and appetite and sleep disturbances. PPD is very treatable. The sooner it is identified that a mother is not feeling like herself and she reaches out for help, the sooner she can start recovering and be able to enjoy her baby and motherhood.

A very small percentage of women experience a much more serious mood disorder called postpartum psychosis, which can cause women to hear, see, feel or smell things that are not there. Symptoms may also include paranoia, mania or catatonic states. This rare illness affects one in every thousand women, usually occurring within the first three weeks after birth. Postpartum psychosis is a serious emergency and requires immediate medical attention.

Myth #2: If a woman is able to take care of her baby, keep a tidy home, looks happy and appears as if she has it all together, she is not experiencing postpartum depression.

Fact: Women are very good at masking the signs and symptoms of PPD, some will go to great efforts to appear as if they are well, but on the inside they may be falling apart and dealing with much anxiety and worry. Shame, guilt or fear may cause women to hide their feelings and suffer in silence.

Myth #3: Pregnant women do not get depressed.

Fact: Studies have shown that rates of depression and anxiety actually increase during pregnancy. Many women who seek treatment for postpartum depression report that their symptoms actually began while they were pregnant.

Myth #4: Postpartum depression is only treated with medication.

Fact: While many women find that medication is very helpful, there are many options for treating PPD, including, individual therapy, support groups, exercise, biofeedback, acupuncture and herbal supplements. Most women are treated with a combination of these treatment options.

Myth #5: Women can’t be treated with antidepressants if they are breastfeeding.

Fact: There are medications that can be taken for depression that are safe for breastfeeding moms. Women should be sure talk with their physician about their options for treatment.

Myth #6: My life is great! PPD could never happen to me.

Fact: PPD does not discriminate. It can happen to those who have never experienced depression or anxiety in their lives. It does not discriminate against race, age, gender, class or income.

Myth #7: Only mothers experience postpartum depression.

Fact: Dads can also experience PPD. Studies have shown that 1 in 10 Dads will experience postpartum depression.

Myth #8: Sharing your personal experience with postpartum depression with pregnant women will only scare them and should be avoided.

Fact: When women have information and resources before symptoms occur, they are less likely to get to the point of a crisis. When a woman is able to hear about signs and symptoms of PPD while she is emotionally well, she will better be able to identify what she is experiencing should symptoms occur, and will be more likely to reach out for treatment and support. It is imperative that women share their stories to dispel these myths and the stigma that is unjustly attached to PPD and other types of mental illness.

Beaumont has many resources, including free support groups, to assist families who are experiencing postpartum depression or difficulty with their postpartum adjustment. You may also reach the Parenting Program staff Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at 248-898-3230.

After-hours support from a Mother/Baby Care nurse is available at:

Royal Oak            248-898-6396

Troy                    248-964-3995

Grosse Pointe       313-473-1705

–Kelly C. Ryan, LMSW, Postpartum Adjustment Coordinator, Beaumont Parenting Program

Memorable Moments of 2013 From Beaumont Children’s Hospital

First lady of Michigan Sue Snyder at Beaumont Children's Hospital this past March

First lady of Michigan Sue Snyder at Beaumont Children’s Hospital this past March

One of the great things about health care is there is always the opportunity for growth — whether it be patient care, advances in research, in technology or more community support. Long one of the cornerstones of the science of medicine, Beaumont researchers are finding new and innovative ways to treat many conditions and illnesses. Here are some 2013 moments:

• Beaumont Children’s Hospital expanded its neuroscience services Jan. 7 with a Pediatric Epilepsy Clinic, offering treatment options and services for infants, children and teens with seizures and epilepsy.

• Beaumont Children’s Hospital opened a Sickle Cell Anemia Center offering comprehensive, specialized care for infants, children and adolescents with sickle cell anemia and sickle-thalassemia syndromes.

• In a study published in the April issue of the journal Resuscitation, Beaumont doctors found that cardiac arrests in K-12 schools are extremely rare, less than 0.2 percent, but out of 47 people who experienced cardiac arrest over a six-year period at K-12 schools, only 15 survived. Th e survival rate was three times greater, however, when bystanders used a device called an automated external defibrillator, or AED, that helps the heart restore a normal rhythm. Th e study “Cardiac Arrests in Schools: Assessing use of Automated External Defibrillators on School Campuses,” was led by principal investigator Robert Swor, D.O., Emergency Medicine physician at Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, and a research team including Edward Walton, M.D., Beaumont’s director of pediatric emergency medicine.

• It’s called PAWS – the pediatric advance warning score. Caregivers throughout Beaumont began using PAWS at the beginning of May to help predict if a child’s health status is likely to decline. Th e system also gives guidance for providers to follow when scores reach a particular number.

• After a successful year-long pilot at Beaumont Hospital, Troy, the Parenting Program is offering first-time parents in-room car seat safety education at both the Troy and Royal Oak hospitals. “We have one certified car seat safety technician at each hospital,” says Deanna Robb, director, Parenting Program. “They are especially sensitive to the high anxiety of new parents. Before we had this program in place, we provided families with a list of community resources, including Safety City U.S.A., but now parents can get a little more immediate security knowing how to properly use and install their car seat.”

• First lady of Michigan Sue Snyder announced her support of programs launched by the Michigan Departments of Human Services and Community Health to combat the nearly 150 fully preventable accidental suffocation infant deaths annually due to unsafe sleep environments. The announcement was made at Beaumont Children’s Hospital March 25.

• Beaumont offered the community a flu hotline to call with questions.

• At the Radiothon for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, a record-breaking $152,000 was raised for kids at Beaumont Children’s Hospital.

• Beaumont Health System announced a $5 million gift from Danialle and Peter Karmanos Jr. The gift will create the Karmanos Center for Natural Birth and the Danialle & Peter Karmanos Jr. Birth Center at Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak.

Here’s to a happy and healthy 2014! Happy New Year!