One month ago, my very dear friend Lara Hogan was interviewed by NPR for a piece on the connection between high risk pregnancies and heart disease. This interview explored the fact that “women with high risk pregnancies are up to eight times more likely to have heart disease later in life”. This is something we all need to be more aware of. Lara’s heroic story of her dramatic and intense delivery and subsequent posteclampsia is a story we should all read and become familiar with. And as Lara stresses, it’s so unbelievably important that we care for not only our babies after childbirth, but ourselves. Bottom line mamas: pay attention to your heart’s health.
SSP: I understand you had been treated for hypertension prior to your pregnancy. How did that affect your pregnancy, and were you monitoring your blood pressure throughout? I went to a high risk doctor early on in my pregnancy because of my age and because of my genetic hypertension, and as we were watching my blood pressure we decided I’d take blood pressure medication to keep my numbers in check. We were monitoring it closely at both the OB and high risk office. They explained to me their concerns and what I needed to look for in terms of preeclampsia warning signs. Two times during the pregnancy I had to check for protein in my urine, which is the key sign for preeclampsia. Those came back OK and it wasn’t until 36 weeks that everything changed.
SSP: Where there any complications or side effects that you experienced during your pregnancy? I had the craziest, biggest swollen feet you’ve ever seen, which is something that many women get. I don’t know if it was necessarily because of high blood pressure, but I tend to swell and think it’s linked my blood pressure. They were crazy huge and very uncomfortable. I had to buy a size 11 pair of vans to fit my feet. Other than that I didn’t notice anything else.
SSP: When did you notice a drastic change, and how did that affect your delivery?
So it really was the first day of turning 36 wks. That evening we hosted a birthday party at my house and everybody fell asleep watching a movie afterwards. I felt a little uneasy…I got up and started cleaning the kitchen, and while cleaning, I could literally feel my blood pressure rising…which is not something most people can physically feel. It’s hard to explain what it feels like. My heart was fluttering, my body was a little flushed and tingly. I decided to check my blood pressure. It was 190 over 120, an extremely high number. Normal is somewhere around 120 over 80. I woke my husband up and told him we needed to go to the hospital. I knew something was wrong. My OB had told me at my 1st appointment we have to get you to 36 weeks at the earliest. It’s very strange that it was to the day my 36th week. We drove to the hospital, we live far from it – about a 45 minute drive. We went to the ER and they immediately sent us up to the maternity ward. They checked vitals and the doctor who saw me left the room after the 1st check and came back 10 min later saying “we spoke to your doctor…looks like we’re having a baby tonight”. Within 10 minutes Chad, my husband, was in scrubs. We had to wait a few hours until 5 in the morning…so we snuggled and slept until then. I called my mom, and she flew in right away.
We went into the operating room, they administered anesthesia, then Chad came in and they started cutting me open for the c-section…when I said “OW”. They cut through the uterus wall and I could feel it. They shouted “everybody stop”!!! That’s the last thing I remember. They brought me emergency anesthesia and I was totally knocked out. I woke up in the recovery room, in the dark. I had a full blown panic attack – where is my baby, where is my husband…I’m totally alone. Chad was in the NICU, with our baby boy. Boys have a much higher rate at 36 weeks to go into NICU, where he ended up spending a week. I got sent up to the high risk maternal unit. The hope with preeclampsia is that it goes away with delivery, that’s the way to get rid of it. My blood pressure however would not go down, and it was really, really high. I had to be monitored, on the cuff and on all of the special monitoring units. A few hours later it shot up even higher. They had to give me an IV of magnesium, which is supposedly the only way to get it down if it doesn’t go down on it’s own. It’s to prevent seizures, the biggest fear with preeclampsia. I couldn’t leave my bed, this is the worst part of it. I still had not seen my son. I saw pictures of him on the phone from Chad. I was so emotional – I can’t see or touch my own child at this point. He’s in the NICU, I’m worried about him. I can’t see him until my numbers regulate. Forty-eight hours later, I had my “Meryl Streep” moment as my husband calls it. I yelled “If you want my blood pressure to go down, I need to see my baby”! I called my doctor, got into a wheelchair hooked up to IV, and got to the NICU. Meanwhile l’m learning how to pump, trying to get any colostrum to him and waiting for my milk to come in. Finally I saw my son Zion and it was obviously the best moment of my life, it seemed to make everything better. I was sent home a few days later when my numbers were close to normal. Having to leave him in NICU was hard but he was in great hands.
Unfortunately, that same night I felt that same feeling as the night I went into the ER. I called my sister, a doctor in NYC, and she freaked out (she does not get worked up over anything). She called my mom and she immediately took me to the ER. This was actually more scary for me than the first time. At this point I have a baby – this time i have a baby who needs me – I can’t die. I’m on the stretcher, and my numbers are so high that they had to call the resident down from the high risk unit to watch me and not leave my side for fear of seizure. This is now called posteclampsia, There is very little research on preeclampsia, so you can imagine how little research there is on posteclampsia. It’s so rare and unheard of. A lot of people don’t know what to do about it. I was hoping to avoid the magnesium again, which by the way I forgot to tell you is like getting the worst flu of your life. Imagine a c-section, not seeing your baby and having the worst flu in your life. You can’t keep your eyes open for more than a few minutes at a time, and that was when I was pumping.
Anyway, I couldn’t avoid the magnesium. I started tasting metal in my mouth. A nurse was standing over me with a paddle, five doctors around me . A crew followed me because of the fear of seizures. I had no appetite, I was just so sick. I got through that, my numbers got better, and Zion and I got to go home a week later. Unfortunately, that was not the end of the nightmare.
I was really sick for more than 6 weeks. We were trying to regulate my medication. My doctor had connected me with a group of doctors at Cedars-Sinai called the Barbara Streisand Women’s Heart Center, where they have a research group focused on women’s high risk maternal health issues. I joined the registry and became supervised by these amazing doctors who were getting as much out of me as a patient that I was out of the doctors. They are trying to raise awareness about the high risk of heart disease in women who have high risk pregnancies. That is why I ultimately did the NPR interview. So, throughout those weeks, I worked closely with my doctors to find the right medicine and dosage. That meant being very sick and not being able to even change a diaper until 6 weeks in. That was so incredibly difficult. My mom and my husband are my heros, they never left my side. They fed me, set my pump up and took care of Zion during the day. I had a postpartum doula at night as I couldn’t really get out of bed. From 9pm to 6am the doula would get up with him, change him, bring him to me and put him back down. I needed that extra help for 6 plus weeks. Needless to say, this was not how I had dreamt of my birth experience.
SSP: How do you personally care for your heart’s health since the birth of your son, Zion?
I am on routine medication, I go for checkups with my women’s care doctors. I try to keep on top of monitoring my blood pressure but again I can usually feel when it’s not right. I live a healthy lifestyle as much as i can. Eating right and exercising.
SSP: Do you have any words of wisdom you’d like to share with expecting moms who have had complications in pregnancy and are concerned about their blood pressure?
I definitely can’t stress enough that every mom who has a high risk pregnancy should go to a cardiologist after having the baby. We’re so focused on the new baby, it’s hard to focus on ourselves but we need to. This is for long term care of you and your heart. Preeclampsia, diabetes, any issue. Also, if you know you are at risk for any of these issues, find the right high risk doctor as soon as you can. Mine was my guide through all of this. Make sure you have a supportive team getting you through whatever you need to get through.
For a link to Lara’s recent NPR interview, go to:
by Jen Valu
Coming clean here: I often dread dinner time. After a full day, who on earth wants to make two separate dinners – one for the kids and one for the adults?! Not me. Although sometimes I do succumb to this I try my hardest not to make those frozen chicken nuggets the norm. After all, I want my children’s taste buds to be as all-inclusive as possible (ha ha, much easier said than done)! My kids eat super early so it’s often the night before’s dinner leftovers for them, and a new dinner for my husband and me.
Here are 10 healthy, easy and generally crowd-pleaser dinner ideas that your entire family will (hopefully) enjoy. They are tasty, fun, colorful and balanced.
* Make Your Own Taco – Let your child help make his/her taco. This is FUN!!! Lettuce, avocado…greek yogurt to dip. Substitute beef with bison for a healthier option. These shrimp tacos are a favorite in my house!
* Crispy Chicken and Homemade Fries – SO much healthier than the frozen chicken nuggets and store bought fries (packed with added sugar, fats, sodium). To make the adults version a little more “mature”, how about a chipotle dip?
* Mac n’ Cheese – Adults love a good mac n’ cheese just as much as the littles do. Want to kick the healthy factor up a notch? Substitute regular pasta with a whole wheat, brown rice or bean based pasta.
* Moroccan Chicken – Fast and tasty, this recipe includes peaches and orange juice to add flavor and please those sugar-craving taste buds.
* Orecchiette with Broccoli and Walnuts – Fresh pasta with protein and fiber filled walnuts and vitamin-rich broccoli. Simple, colorful and yummy.
* Almond Fish Sticks – OK, yum…cod covered in crunchy almonds and flakes. Want to add a little “adult” into this recipe? Make a side dipping sriracha or tartar sauce.
* Black Bean Quesadillas – This is my go-to when I need something super-quick, that I enjoy as well. SUPER simple and healthy. Add a fried egg if you want! On the “adult” quesadilla, consider adding onions, spices and jalapeños!
* Swordfish Piccata – My daughter, like many other 4 year olds I know, will not eat fish (other than shrimp)…HOWEVER, there is something about swordfish that excludes it from the “I hate fish” rule. Maybe it’s the more dense consistency, almost like chicken – not sure. Personally, I don’t include capers on hers, and I’m generally not a fan of thyme either.
* Hamburger Buddy Pasta – This recipe helps you hide a few vegetables, like mushrooms and carrots. Try substituting with bison for a healthier version. Add spices to the adult portion as many will find it on the blander side without.
* Pasta with Fresh Tomato Sauce – Kids cannot get enough pasta. Let’s at least try to make it a little healthier for them by making a homemade tomato sauce! Here is basic recipe, for you to tweak as you wish!
One piece of advice to new mommies – don’t succumb to “kids food” 24/7. They will be dictating their menu to you, and will refuse to open up to new (healthier) ideas. Listen, getting a toddler to eat a new food or fish for example (god forbid), can feel excruciatingly impossible. We’re not going to win every food war. My thought is this: have them at least TRY something, even just a few bites. They might actually like something they thought they detested. There’s an old Sesame Street episode about this, where Elmo has to try a kiwi, which he didn’t think he liked…and he enjoys it! Try watching this with them. Note: it can take ten tries before your taste buds decide if they like a food or not. And…often if my child is not crazy about the dinner option for the evening, I explain there are no other options, so she needs to eat whatever it is if she doesn’t want to go to bed starving. And of course definitely no after dinner sweet if she doesn’t eat it. Having the energy to take this on every night is difficult, but we can try to introduce new healthy foods once or twice a week and see what sticks! Don’t give up!
Posted by Jen Valu
I’m talking to all parents here, but moms specifically. We are always too busy (a word I use way too often to describe how I’m doing), taking care of everyone – our kids, our home, even our spouse…that we often neglect a very important person – YOURSELF. Easier said than done, I am guilty as charged. I sometimes wait 6 months to get a haircut. I rarely get much needed “girl time” with my friends. I can’t remember the last time I was able to pick up a book and get lost in it. I feel good thinking about all of the things I get done every day – taking care of two children, working PT, paying bills, food shopping, taking care of the house and somehow mustering up the energy after both kids are asleep to make my husband and I dinner when he gets home from work. After all, look at what we accomplish every single day. We should feel proud!!! BUT…do you ever feel like you’re losing yourself in the day to day grind, not having a moment to think about you?
Here are a few ideas for ways we can take care of ourselves without breaking the bank and taking too much time away from those snuggles and laughs with our babies.
Try setting your alarm clock 20-30 min early if you can’t find time in the day to do these things. Start the day with YOU-time. And watch the beautiful sun rise while you do it.
Listen, there is never enough time in the day or the funds to do what we really want to do for ourselves. Sure I’d love a day at the spa once a month and a yearly trip with close girlfriends somewhere on a secluded beach in the Caribbean. I’d love to go into Manhattan, all alone and just wander around for an entire day. Meet up with friends for lunch, go shop. Just a me-day. One day we’ll all get there (here’s to hoping), but these things can feel a little out of reach with the little people in our lives. Maybe we can take some of these small steps towards that much needed “me time”.
Remember, if you feel like you’re taking care of “everything”, that includes you. If you truly take care of yourself, you are happier…you are a better parent, a more patient parent. You’re also letting your children know that YOU matter, and that you truly value yourself.
Posted by Jen Valu
As parents we are always looking to find books that are both entertaining and at the same time help teach valuable lessons. As a mother of two who grew up in an extremely homogenous (and often narrow-minded) small town, some of the most important lessons I believe we can teach our children is to think with an open mind, to embrace honesty, to not judge and to accept differences with an open heart. Every now and again we stumble upon a book that not only our child loves reading, but also helps reinforce these values we hold dear. Jacob’s New Dress, by Sarah and Ian Hoffman, is absolutely one of these books. It follows a little boy named Jacob who wants to wear a dress to school, and the struggle he faces in feeling so different from his peers.
SSP: Can you please tell us a little bit about your personal experiences that have helped shape your inspiration behind Jacob’s New Dress?
When our son Sam was two, he wanted to play with the toys and wear the clothes generally thought to be for girls: pink sneakers, pink t-shirts, flowered hats, and the princess dress-up costumes at preschool. Eventual Sam asked, “Can I wear a dress for real? To school?”
It was a confusing experience for us as parents as we tried to balance supporting our son’s intense desire to be himself with concerns about his safety. We joined a national support group for parents of gender-nonconforming kids, and found we were not alone. There were lots of parents like us, and none of us had resources to help our kids manage the complex social dynamics that come from being different. As writers (Ian as a children’s book author and illustrator; Sarah as a writer for grown-ups about kids and gender), it seemed natural to collaborate on a picture book about a boy who wants to wear a dress. It was our way to help other boys like Sam. Having a book where they can see themselves portrayed in a positive way is very powerful. And it gives parents and teachers a way into a conversation about acceptance of difference.
SSP: For all of the parents out there with gender-fluid children, this must provide immeasurable support….reading about another child out there that is so similar to them! Can you tell me about the most meaningful feedback you’ve received?
While it’s exciting to read good reviews in magazines and newspapers, the most meaningful feedback comes from individuals. Parents of gender-diverse kids (as well as gender-nonconforming or trans adults) from all over the world have written to us to share their stories—stories that are often heartbreaking as well as heartwarming. They send photos of smiling little boys wearing princess dresses and holding a copy of Jacob. Knowing we’re making a difference in a real child’s life makes us feel both immensely proud and deeply humbled.
In a recent visit to a K-5 public school, a parent cried as she told us how the book had transformed her whole family’s approach to supporting their son, how they moved from shame and hiding into acceptance and even celebration of their son. By the time she was done we were all in tears.
SSP: I personally appreciate how honest and realistic this book is. It is not easy being different, and reactions to being different can often be extremely hurtful. Why was it important for you to write in this way, specifically when you write about how Jacob “can’t breathe” when he’s in these circumstances? It tugs at a parent’s heart.
Life can be very difficult for kids who are different, in any way. Since our goal was to write the book in a way that portrayed a gender-nonconforming child in a positive light, we had to also be honest about what life is like for a child like that. While our son felt happy and free twirling in a sparkly dress while wearing a tiara, his experience with other people’s reactions (both kids and adults) was often deflating in a way that gave us that “can’t breathe” feeling. It’s a story we heard over and over again from other parents, and we felt that the experience needed to be reflected in the book.
Jacob’s New Dress was a hard book to write. We knew the joys and sorrows of Jacob’s life so well from our own son’s experiences. The early drafts were too intense for a young audience; it took a while to move away from the reality of our son’s story and come up with Jacob’s story, which is fictional and more appropriate for a picture book. You can read the real-life story of Sam’s first day in a dress here http://www.sarahandianhoffman.com/cookie-sh-article.pdf.
SSP: As a mother of 2, one being a 3 year old daughter…I see how innocently and beautifully they visualize the world. So accepting and open. No gender-bias. When she invites her boy friends over for a play date, she often asks if they want to play dress-up (which means a tutu in this house). She never questions or thinks why that would be different for a boy or girl. How do you suggest we help them maintain this way of thinking?
Bias is learned. Parents teach it, teachers teach it, television and movies and gendered aisles in toy and clothing stores teach it. Even if at home you support your daughter’s open-hearted free thinking, as she gets older it will become harder and harder to counter all of the gender-divided messages she’ll receive from the world. However….
We’ve learned that kids are pretty tolerant of difference if they’re taught to be tolerant. Education makes a huge difference in terms of what kids will or won’t accept. We saw it clearly in Sam’s school—when kids were taught simple lessons about letting everyone be who they are (Colors are for everyone! Boys can have long hair! Girls can have short hair! Like what you like, and let others like what they like!), they accepted Sam. When they weren’t explicitly taught, they rejected him. Education is powerful. It works.
In unsupportive environments, kids like Sam are teased, ostracized, and brutalized. We want to try to prevent these behaviors before they start by building a culture that tolerates, values, and celebrates difference. Our book is a small piece of a much larger effort to build a more empathetic, compassionate culture.
SSP: Is there anything you’d like to share specifically with those parents and families of transgender children?
First, find support—for both yourselves and your children. Join a support group of like-minded parents (or form one if you can’t find one); bring your child to a group for gender-nonconforming or trans kids. Enlist thoughtful, supportive family and friends to buoy and celebrate your child and your efforts to make their world safe. Read books about parenting gender-creative children, and fill your child’s library with books that reflect gender diversity (our website has a list of books for adults and kids of all ages—http://www.sarahandianhoffman.com/resources/recommended-reading/). Ask your school to be proactive about anti-bullying programs in general and gender education in particular (and if asking doesn’t work, demand it). Find organizations that support families and schools (our website has a list). The National Association of Independent Schools has a document, Guidelines for Independent Schools Working With and Supporting Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students, which provides invaluable support for building acceptance in schools.
Educate everyone you can. Gender diversity is a new concept for most people; ignorance and prejudice are deeply ingrained. Even people who love your children—like grandparents—often need time to adjust. See each interaction as an opportunity to educate someone about the many forms of gender identity and expression.
Remember that your responsibility is to your child, not to manage the discomfort of adults. Walk away from judgment, and shield your child from it as best you can. And when you can’t shield them, teach them to manage it. Teach them the historical context for overcoming bias. When Sam was in kindergarten, we taught him about Rosa Parks and Harvey Milk—ordinary people who stood up to bias against them and changed the world. Tell your child the world will change. That it is changing. And that they are helping to change it, simply by being themselves.
Lastly: breathe. When you’re the parent of a kid who’s different, it’s easy to overthink everything you do, tempting to try to interpret the significance of everything your kid does, and appealing to try to predict the future. Our job is to accept our kids for who they are, and to protect them from harm. We can’t know who or what our children will evolve into as they grow up. We had no idea that one day Sam would put on khaki pants and cut his hair short (as he did at age 11) and be happy with that choice. We had no idea if he would grow up to be straight, gay, bi, gender-queer, trans, or his own special something—in fact, we still don’t. Sam, like all of us, is a work in progress. All we as parents can do is support our children unconditionally, and be open to who they become.
Posted By Jen Valu
written by Jen #supermom
Sending your toddler or pre-schooler out for the day and need to pack a lunch? So over making PB&J sandwiches? I am personally going through this now, as my 3 year old is at daycare 4 half days a week, and I need to provide lunch. I cannot bear to give her the favorite (PB&J of course) more than once, MAYBE twice a week. That being said, she’s also a bit of a picky eater and I’m always looking for new healthy options that she will actually consume.
As this seems to be a popular topic among many moms in this situation, I thought I’d share some of the ideas I’ve received from friends near and far:
* Wraps (vs sandwiches) – cheese and/or deli meats or avocado and hummus. Cut wrap into pinwheels for fun!
* Another more exciting version of your typical sandwich – cut it with cookie cutters! (After all, presentation of the food is quite a bit deal to the little ones)….and eat the remains for your snack (isn’t that we always end up doing anyway)?!
* Whole Wheat or Brown Rice Pasta in a thermos with turkey meatballs or veggies
* Tomato soup and a grilled cheese
* Hummus or Guac with Veggies and Pita to dip
* Black beans and rice
* Quesadilla with beans and spinach, or cheese and avocado!
* Rolled slices of turkey, rolled sliced cheese and whole wheat crackers
* Yogurt and berries with a half sandwich
* Whole wheat bagel with cream cheese
* Use leftover roasted chicken and add mayo, sweet cranberries and crunchy celery to make a yummy wrap or sandwich
* Falafel patty in a pita with lettuce, tomato and plain yogurt
* Veggie burger with pita & dip of choice
* Corn, peas, chickpeas…fun small round things!
* Frozen yogurt squeezers (will be thawed out but still cold by time lunch comes around)
* Chopped up veggies: cucumbers, carrots, tomatoes, peppers
* String cheese
* Hard boiled egg
* Fruit salad
Here is some helpful advice in regards to planning for the week’s lunches:
So far I’ve had many days when I pick her up and almost the entire lunch has not been touched, other days it’s been entirely gobbled up. I think this is completely unavoidable, no matter what is offered! It just depends on her mood, and I am never exactly sure what she’s in the mood for. Or perhaps it has more to do with what is going on around her at the time (she is so easily distracted)! Anyway, I hope this list of suggestions will at least empower you to try new things…and who knows, perhaps your child will fill find a new favorite and you’ll come home with more empty lunch boxes!
Posted on August 14th, 2015
Posted by Matteo