Friday, February 24, 2012

February Update

There's no theme to this blog post. I've been trying to think of one to write a themed post for a while, but I just don't have one in mind. I just want to let the world know how we're doing.

Well, as far as the kids go, Anna is a growing girl! We're weeding out 6X clothing now. She is so tall! She has just gone through another growth spurt, putting her into the 83rd percentile for height and 89th for weight. She is learning every day new things. Just the other day, we were working on a Kindergarten Homeschooling book. The name of the game was to fill in the missing letter. There would be a missing vowel or a missing consonant. For example, there would be a picture of a pig and the letters would be "p_g" and she'd have to fill in the blanks. Let me tell you, I was so surprised at how quickly she filled in the missing letters. She basically filled them in as quickly as any learned reader would! Kindergarten is going to be such a breeze for her! Speaking of which, she will be starting kindergarten in just six months! It's hard to believe!

Charlie is growing as well. He will be turning 4 months old on the 1st and I recently put 9 month clothing and a few 12 month outfits into his drawers, which he fits quite well. He has discovered his toes - which he grabs at any chance! He nurses at night probably too much, but maybe that's because I wake him up with my own movements.

Paul's still job-hunting. Grrr. However, he is working a contract position through an awesome Redmond, WA company which is paying the bills and giving us much needed financial freedom. I am so excited at the prospect of having our own place again and seeing the kids enjoy it, too. You never know how great that freedom is until it's taken from you. That being said, I am extremely thankful for my in-laws for their help during this time. I'm also thankful for the chance to hang out with my church family. Anna loves being around her friends a lot, too. I know she craves more company (i.e. kindergarten peers), but this is the way it has to be. Sigh.

I've been volunteering for a non-profit which houses at-risk youth and offers counseling to the community. It's a lot of fun and it's really rewarding. I love knowing that something is going on my resume at last. It's also great to give my brain some exercise again! I do miss testing and taking courses, but I suppose before I know it I'll be in grad school and hoping for a break again. I guess you can't have it all. ;)

Anna and Charlie love one another, but they are already starting to 'argue'. Anna will get in his face to love on Charlie and he'll push her away, turn his head and/or scream! Oh, boy! The other day, she was sitting next to me and Charlie was in my lap. Charlie kept reaching onto her book and patting it. Anna would get angry and tell me that he kept touching her stuff! Ugh! Today, she told me that it was 'no fair' that I was sitting with Charlie at the restaurant and not her. God save me. Do such disagreements have to be prerequisite to being siblings? No thanks! But I suppose it'll get worse and at the same time they'll learn to share and be friends, so there will be good parts, I'm sure!

Enough for now! TTFN!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Let's Talk "Flat Head Syndrome": Anna's Story

Well world, I'm coming out of the Plagio closet! Why write about this now? I've had plenty of friends (many of you are reading now or about to) worrying about their own little ones and their flat spots. 99% of the time, there's nothing to worry about. But I do have thoughts on the subject. Here is our story...

Anna was born with a perfectly normal shaped head... kind of. The fact is, it did not 'mold' like babies heads usually do when they squeeze out of the birth canal. This is because of the posterior positioning that she had when she came out (posterior AKA sunny side up... babies aren't meant to come out this way and it's much harder to come out than sunny side down!). She didn't have a cone head whatsoever. I remember looking at her head and thinking that that was a funny little quirk. Being a new mom, I head read a million baby books and watched a million and one Birth Day episodes to know what to expect. Just as it should be, her birth was anything but ordinary. But that's for another day and another story. (As it turns out, children like Anna and Charlie who were posterior, or any other child who didn't sit "right" in the womb tend to tussle with Plagio... same goes for multiples for the same reason!)

When the tummy time days came around, we lived in a little apartment with carpet that was laid directly on top of the concrete floor. She was two weeks old when she got her first go around with tummy time and... she hated it! Big surprise, right? Every kid (with the miraculous exception of one or two) hate tummy time at first. Of course, she screamed and I decided to give her "back time" to get her used to being on the floor. I bet you know what happened next, right? Soft baby skull + time laying on a concrete floor? I began to notice marked flatness by six weeks old. Her head was on the bigger side and when she was around 8 weeks old, she got an x-ray to make sure her sutures weren't sealing early. Other than that, the pediatrician made no comments about the actual shape her head. As it turns out, most pediatricians think this is a more cosmetic issue anyway and being that I was on state insurance at the time, a 2,000 dollar helmet to correct the issue wasn't even an option, so I never brought it up with the pediatrician. I've recently read that "Flat Head Syndrome" has been linked to cognitive and motor delays in a study done on Seattle. So no, it is not just a cosmetic issue any more.

Note: Looking back on it, I should have brought it up with the pediatrician. He could have referred me to a specialist or did a little research for himself (thereby helping a future patient of his, probably). Insurance or lack of insurance shouldn't bar someone from knowledge.

(Above: Anna, 5 1/2 months old)

Thankfully, I had never noticed any delays in Anna. If anything, she was always on the early side of things when it came to baby milestones.

On a warm spring day in Seattle, when Anna was 5 1/2 months old, we went down to the chapel at Northwest and sat on the green lawn. It was a little chilly, but it was beautiful. I took lots of pictures of Anna. Then I looked at those pictures. Frankly, I was alarmed. Her head was so flat! I spent many hours doing lots of Googling. "Flat head baby", I would search. I discovered Plagiocephaly. Anna actually fell more into the Brachycephaly category, having a pronounced flat spot on the back of her head. More scared than ever that my child would end up "deformed" and it would be my fault, I felt extreme guilt. I still feel a little guilty. And I was afraid that If I came across people who were a little more educated on the subject, they would think that her flat head was caused by my neglect (which isn't necessarily true, by the way). So, I kept my mouth shut. When I mentioned anything to my husband, he would think I was overreacting. To be honest, I do overreact, but this was something that I felt I had to fix... by myself.

(Above and below: Anna on the beach at 7 months old.)

Being that we were co-sleepers, it made my next move pretty easy. I rolled Anna onto her side at night for months, holding her around her waist. She never turned her head in her sleep, so this was one way I could make sure the pressure was on the side of her head instead of the back. (Please, this is my story, so it isn't medical advice. Please talk to your pediatrician about these things. I'm not saying what I did was the approved thing to do.) Another great thing was that our little girl was a mover and a shaker. At 4 months, she began rolling. At 5 months, she began sitting up. At 7 months, she did the army crawl. At 9 months, she began to properly crawl. At 9 1/2 months, she took her first steps! This certainly must have helped with keeping pressure off the back of her little noggin. Besides that, bows somehow disguised the flatness of her head... it took 2 years before she had enough hair for a clip! haha

(Above: Anna at her 1 year appointment on her first birthday.)

You can already tell the difference, can't you? Helmet-free, my daughter's head slowly began to move into a normal shape... or at least really close to normal. The use of a helmet does its best work if used before the age of 6 months... which is about the time I began to freak out about Anna's Brachycephaly. It looked better from the side. When she looked down, though, there was a very obvious flatness to her head.

So, where are we today? Anna's face is on the wider side, for sure, but she isn't exactly a petite girl, being in the 75th percentile for height and 90th for weight. She's proportional. When her hair began to come in, it came in with lots of curls, which I was delighted by, it disguised it a bit more. Her head looks much better. When I fix her hair, I still feel the flat spot, but it's much better and I'm really thankful that her face wasn't changed by the Brachy (sometimes the forehead protrudes or changes in shape).

Anna often got "big head" comments as she was growing up. Her head was proportional to her body. I'm sure that the flatness on the back of her head, making her face wider, did not help with her appearance. Nonetheless, I made it a rule after a while of smiling at the comments and boiling inside, that I do not appreciate comments about my childrens' appearances.

As far as family goes, Charlie was also posterior. I keep him off from his head as much as possible. Car seats are for cars, is the rule. I carry him around just as much as I carried Anna around. He switches sides throughout the night as I nurse him, so he spends equal amounts of time on each side of his head. His head wasn't as flat as Anna's was at birth, so I think we had a better "starting point" than we had with Anna. Despite all of this, I still see a teeny flat spot, but from what I've read, that's totally normal and it really doesn't look bad like Anna's was. A lot of children have at least a little flatness in infancy since the Back to Sleep Campaign started up nearly two decades ago. It rounds out as they become mobile. Charlie's flat spot is next to unnoticeable... you know, unless you're an overprotective mom like me hehe. Thank goodness. Now, is my family more educated on Plagiocephaly and Brachycephaly? Unfortunately no. I don't really talk about it at all. Paul has heard most of my thoughts on the subject. My mother-in-law has heard nearly none of it. Flat Head Syndrome is more of a 1990s+ issue. Whew! Now, for pictures of Anna today...

(Above: Anna, age 4)

(Anna, age 5.)