Book Review: The Mayo Clinic Guide to Your Baby’s First Year

If you saw my review of The Mayo Clinic’s Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy, you know how excited I was to read this. But this review will probably be much shorter and less glowing than that one. In a nutshell, this book is a bit superfluous. And coming from me, that’s saying something. I love reading and researching and will jump on just about any chance to do so, but in this case? Well, let’s jump right in.

There’s nothing really wrong with this book, it’s just kind of boring. Most of the information in it is a retread of info found in The Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy, and I would recommend reading that over this. Once you get past the first few months of having a newborn, there’s a lot less to worry about. Or at least, there’s different things to worry about. But you’re no longer in that stage where sleeping, eating, and falling are life or death situations. Once your little one’s a bit older, you rely more on common sense than needing to look up what to do.

The Pregnancy Guide’s chapters on the first few months offer great coverage of breastfeeding, immunizations, sleep training, and all those things. This guide really just elaborates, and I found the elaboration to not really be necessary.

One thing I did really enjoy about this book were the parts on what it’s like to be a new parent emotionally. It’s very cathartic to read that your feelings, especially negative ones and “baby blues” ones, are common and normal. And it offers good ways to cope. But again, rather than recommending this book, I’d lean more towards suggesting finding a book that exclusively focuses on parenting and feelings.

The more utilitarian information is all stuff that you’re gonna hear from your pediatrician. Developmental milestones, when to get immunizations, introducing solid foods, these are all going to be covered if you’re seeing a pediatrician regularly. Don’t replace that with a book, babies need all those checkups each month. Your pediatrician will tell you when your little one can start table food, and you can judge if you want to go ahead or wait on it.

If you don’t have a communicative pediatrician and can’t switch, or if you don’t have other mom friends or your own parents around to talk to, then maybe this book would be helpful to you, but honestly, once the baby is out and growing, you’re going to get floods of information from everywhere. From programs like WIC where you have to attend occasional classes, to alarmist facebook posts from well-meaning in-laws, you’re going to hear about most everything. Plus, that first year goes by so fast, you’ll hardly have time to research each step (or read a book, for that matter).

So yeah. My consensus is basically “meh.” There’s nothing bad or wrong about this book, it’s just kind of dull and an extra thing that you don’t really need to be fussing with in your child’s first year.

Sorry this wasn’t more exciting to read, haha. Meh reviews are hard. I’ve got a few more parenting/pregnancy books to read since I’m unexpectedly pregnant with #2 on the way. Stay tuned!

Job 16: On Comforting Friends in Hard Times

I try to read the Bible every night (though this has really fallen through since Baby arrived) ((same with posting here on a regular basis)) (((you might have noticed))). And something in the book of Job really stood out to me.

If you have a chronic illness, physical or mental, you’ve probably had well-meaning friends try to offer advice on how to get better. And you’ve probably heard it at just the wrong moment or in just the wrong way, and felt hurt or annoyed. You, after all, live with this every day. Don’t they know you’ve done research and tried lots of things? Don’t they know you’re trying to get better? Why can’t they just listen and comfort you in these hard times?

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Job did have a sort of illness – he was covered in painful skin sores. But that’s really the least of his many problems. See, Job was a good guy. But Satan argued to God that Job was only good and faithful because he had a comfortable life. So God allowed Satan to rough Job up a bit to prove he would remain faithful. Job lost his children, all his worldly possessions, and his health in one day. And he wasn’t all “God giveth and taketh away” about it either – he was sad, and he was pissed! Most of the book of Job is him cursing the day he was born, yelling at God, and yelling at his friends.

And that brings us back around to where I started – well-meaning friends. What did Job’s friends have to say?

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Well, they tried to figure out what Job did to deserve this. I mean he must have done something bad, right? Clearly this was a punishment. Victim-blaming is as old as the Old Testament. Have you had anyone suggest that you somehow brought your chronic illness on yourself?

They also hypothesize that Job’s dead children probably brought their deaths upon themselves, and say that Job’s lucky his punishment wasn’t worse because he probably deserved something much harsher. Thanks guys! Very helpful.

So here’s the verse that stood out to me:

“I also could speak like you,
    if you were in my place;
I could make fine speeches against you
    and shake my head at you.
But my mouth would encourage you;
    comfort from my lips would bring you relief.

Yet if I speak, my pain is not relieved;
    and if I refrain, it does not go away.

Surely, God, you have worn me out.”

-Job 16:4-7

I’m sure we’ve all wondered what we would say to someone with our illness if we were healthy and had never experienced it. We all hope we’d refrain from offering that well-meaning advice about what they should or should not have done to get themselves into that situation. We hope we wouldn’t “make fine speeches” or “shake our heads.” We hope we would encourage them and comfort them. But there’s no way to know.

And I’m sure there have been many times when you thought “if I speak, my pain is not relieved, and if I refrain, it does not go away.” Blogging feels that way sometimes. Here, I try to offer comfort, encouragement, and catharsis. But does it make me better? Does it matter at all?

You Make Me Tired

“God, you have worn me out!”

Well, back to Job’s story. After arguing with his pals for a while, yet another well-meaning friend arrives with even more tsk tsks and unhelpful advice. And Job is wondering out loud about life, the universe, and everything between occasional outbursts and his freaking annoying friends. But he never says “God, I hate you!” or “There must not be a God!” or anything accusatory. He cries out to God about how hurt he is, how angry, and how sad. But he passes Satan’s test.

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And while he’s tearing his clothes and crying and yelling and his friends are still trying to explain how he kind of deserves all this, God literally parts the sky and goes “SHUT UP, YOU GUYS ARE THE ACTUAL WORST.” Then he takes Job aside and asks him some rhetorical questions, using them like a kind father to explain how little Job understands about life, the universe, and everything. Job agrees, and again, never says anything like “well if I were God…” or “I don’t think the universe should be this way!” He simply acknowledges that he is small and knows little.

The God goes back to Job’s well-meaning friends and is about to really let them have it, but Job jumps in and says hey, they’re also dumb little humans. And he can’t hold that against them, and he asks God not to hold it against them either.

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So here’s two things to take from this:

If you have well-meaning friends who have tried to tell you you’re not working hard enough to get better, or that you wouldn’t be sick if you hadn’t x, y, or z, remember that they’re just dumb little humans. Think of life, the universe, and everything that you don’t understand, and empathize with their stupidity and ignorance.

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And also remember that God empathizes with you. Any moment he might be ready to open the sky and really tell those well-meaning people off. He feels your feels.

And if you’re not of the Christian disposition, I hope you take something from this story as well. You’re not alone. These well-meaners are as old as the mountains, and generations upon generations have had to deal with this crap. You don’t understand everything either, and all us humans just have to muddle through life, the universe, and everything together.

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I’m going to end this with the benediction my church ends each service with, because I think it’s a beautiful blessing to send someone off with.

“May the Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you. May the Lord look upon you with His favor, and give you His peace.”

Men’s Health: Advice from One Man At the End of His Life

A few years ago, my husband’s grandfather passed away. I’m blessed to have all my grandparents with me today, and for me, it was my first experience with Parkinsons, cancer, and nursing homes. I didn’t know Grandpa Melvin all that well or all that long because he lived out of state, but he made my wedding ring, and I got to spend a good amount of time with him towards the end of his days. 

It’s fascinating to speak with someone at the end of a long, full life. He asked all about his grandsons’ daily lives, school, and jobs, offering occasional encouragement or advice. He didn’t speak about himself as much. He and his grandsons aren’t terribly touchy-feely types. My husband is definitely the “sappiest” of the bunch. But Grandpa Melvin did offer a few moments of earnest heart to heart, with perhaps even a tear or two sneaking in there.

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Grandpa Melvin was very sick, not only with Parkinsons but also cancer. We asked how he was doing health wise each day and he always told us in the regular way folks talk to each other – how he felt, if eating and sleeping were going well or poorly, how well he was getting around, etc. That is to say, not in medical terms. So I can’t really tell you specifics on his medical condition. But I will tell you what he told us.

One of his final wishes to my husband was “get checked out.”  I’ll paraphrase, but here’s the gist of what he said. “Go to the doctor. Get checkups. Do the embarrassing stuff. It’s one of those things people know they should do but they don’t always. Staying healthy is important. I’m not worried about myself, but when you’re old, you’re sad for your kids and your grandkids. You should do it for them.”

That was one of the last pieces of advice this man left for his grandson, but I wanted to share it because it’s good advice for all men. I have endometriosis and PCOS – this blog talks a lot about women’s health. But statistically, women are 24% more likely to see a doctor regularly. We go to the “lady doctor,” there’s tons of press on screening for breast cancer and ovarian cancer, and women are constantly proven more likely to seek medical care for illness than men.

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Well, today I’m going to do my part and use my health blog to not only broadcast one man’s advice, but give you guys some idea of what kind of routine care you need.

1.) The “Embarrassing Stuff.”

Screening for prostate cancer and colon cancer – aka letting a doctor check out your butt. Look, it doesn’t sound fun I admit, but again, ladies’ regular visits to the “lady doctor” are way more invasive and way less stigmatized. What is up with that? I think a lot of it is due to those pink ribbons and awareness months dedicated to breast and cervical cancer. But guys are dying of cancer too! Lucky for them, they have just as much screening available. Go get checked. Survival rates are high when cancers like this are caught early. Prostate cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in the US today. And to anyone who says to skip it because of false positives – I say risking a false positive doesn’t outweigh missing the cancer.

-Men Everywhere

-Men Everywhere

Starting at age 40, prostate exams are recommended regularly (once a year, calm down). Colon cancer screenings are usually done starting at age 50. If you’re under 40, keeping up with yearly physical checkups and seeing a doctor for any illness or abnormality is the best thing you can do. Your primary care doctor will be able to recommend a cancer screening on a case by case basis if you need one.

2.) The “Boring Stuff.”

Blood pressure and cholesterol levels – aka a chore. Most men report that the reason they don’t get a yearly checkup is that “they don’t have time.” I can’t fault you there – going to the doctor, having them squeeze your arm, and hearing “your blood pressure’s good” is basically white noise. It is to me too. Even when I’m in the ER I pretty much never care what their puffy air sleeve has to say. And having blood drawn and receiving a postcard in the mail a few weeks later that says “normal” is less than thrilling. It doesn’t feel like you’re really doing anything for your health. There’s been once or twice that my cholesterol levels have been high. I got a postcard with a stamp on it that said “eat healthy” with a smiley face.

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Oh boy, glad I took the time to get that gem of advice!

But in all seriousness, monitoring these things long term is invaluable data if anything ever goes wrong, and a great general measure of overall health. A general physical exam complete with hitting your knee with a tiny hammer may seem awfully quick and like there’s no way any useful info could come from it, but look at it with optimism. It’s quick and easy and  non-invasive- staying healthy is SO EASY GUYS! So a yearly checkup is kind of a chore? So what? It’s a ONCE A YEAR chore. It’s easier than cleaning the gutters. And you do it for your family. So just go.

Yearly checkups are reccomended for ages 2 – 200. So yeah, JUST GO.

3.) Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself

This one is simultaneously the easiest and the hardest of all. The easy part is keeping an eye on yourself. Look at yourself in the mirror each day. Was that freckle always there? Did that mole get bigger? Here’s the hard part – GO TO THE DOCTOR WHEN SOMETHING’S UP. You know yourself better than anyone. Are you more tired than you should be? Are you moodier than usual? Yeah, if you’re having trouble keeping your temper or getting up in the morning, you might mention it to someone. If there’s a “weird thing” on your skin, go show a doctor. Don’t be the guy who gets asked “hey, what’s that spot on your arm?” and answers “yeah I dunno, I saw it last month and since then it’s gotten twice as big but I dunno.”

Sometimes, you may not be the best judge of yourself. If you’re not sure you should see a doctor, ask friends and family. Do I seem overtired lately? Have I been myself lately? If there’s a spot on your skin that you’re honestly not sure is new, ask your significant other. Don’t have one? Ask your parents. No, get out of here with your “gross that’s embarrassing,” your parents wiped your butt. I have a son now. He’s reached into his diaper and rubbed poop all over himself and me. I have gotten in the shower with him while we were both fully clothed and peeled poopy clothes off layer by layer until we were two slippery poopy naked people crying in the shower together. I’m not going to make fun of him if he has a weird spot on his lower back when he’s 27. Your parents have seen your lower back, they’ll know if something’s new.

Parents: They Already Know You're Gross

Parents: They Already Know You’re Gross

And here’s some good advice for all genders. Do you live with someone? I don’t care what their relationship is to you. Every now and then look at them while they’re reading or cooking or catching pokemon. Look at their shoulders and back – places they don’t see well. Glance over them every few days. If you see a new freckle pop up, let them know. Why not? If it’s kind of weird but saves their life, good on you!

This section’s getting long but it’s gonna get longer because I know two men who almost died and didn’t because they had a doctor look at the weird thing on their skin. One of my friends is a tennis player and photographer – he spends a lot of time outside. He got a new freckle on his back. He got it tested. It was skin cancer. Now there’s a chunk missing from his back and he’s cancer free – but if he saw it and thought “eh, people get freckles from the sun right?” and went on with life, he might not be here today. This boy is younger than me. I don’t like burying people younger than me.

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Exhibit B: my dad. He got a weird blood blister on his palm. We joked that he had a stigmata. He got a weird cold and fever that wouldn’t go away. He could have gone “oh, it’s a cold, who cares. I’d rather rest at home than spend a day at a clinic.” He could have thought “huh this blood blister’s weird” like I think most people would. But he went to the clinic. They weren’t helpful at all. He could have gone “I’m not wasting my time with doctors anymore, it’s just a cold. And a weird blister.” But he went to his primary care doctor. They never did figure out what was up. I guess it was just a bad cold. And a weird blood blister. But while they were running tests, they discovered his aorta was enlarged and ripping. The doctor preformed what he described as “a rare surgery” on him – because this is a condition that is usually discovered in a dead person. A few more days of thinking he’d “wait it out and see if this cold goes away” and he literally would have died.

Even if you don’t get answers or it turns out to be nothing, a trip to the doctor is not a waste of time.

So this is me saying to ALL of you, but men in particular because you seem to need to hear it: go to the doctor. Let it be a boring chore and be thankful each time you go home feeling like it was a boring chore. Families like saying “well thank god he went to a doctor!” a lot more than getting diagnoses from an autopsy.

Yup, it just got dramatic all up in here. But the title did promise deathbed wishes. Sometimes you’ve got to get serious about serious business. So send this to someone you love and who needs a loving smack upside the head.

To my sweet dear husband who as of yesterday I’ve been married to for six years: let’s call and schedule you a checkup.

xoxo

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Works Cited and Further Reading:

Six Routine Screenings for Men’s Health – Everyday Health

Health Care Access and Utilization in Young Adults – The CDC

Check Ups and Screening Guidelines for Men – Men’s Health Network

Men: Stay Healthy at Any Age – Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

Chronic Travel Bug: Road Trip Edition!

Hey Everyone!

I just got back from my husband and I’s first road trip! We had a BLAST and I can’t wait to tell you all about it. We saw so many amazing things across the 4 states we visited (technically 5, but we didn’t stop in Mississippi at all). Each state deserves it’s own post, so for now I just want to talk about road trips overall, and how to manage one if you have a chronic illness. Continue reading

Chronic Travel Bug: Dallas Comic Con

This was my first time EVER at a convention of any kind and I had a total blast. Comic Con is great because despite the title, it’s actually a perfect convention for fans of all kinds. The official website breaks down the events and guests into 5 categories: comics (duh), sci fi, horror, anime, and gaming. Even that doesn’t cover all the appeal, though! Alice Cooper of the Rock and Roll hall of fame was there for metal fans, there was an array of booths selling fantasy garb akin to what one might find at Scarborough, a few Steam Punk vendors selling goggles and gears, and art art art art art. Art everywhere. There is something for everyone at this convention.

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My friends have always been the type to go to conventions all the time. I’ve been invited over and over but always declined. Continue reading