26 Oct 2011

Social Media/Work/Life Balance

It used to be those that work had the goal of having "work/life balance."  Meaning we all strive to have a job and also be able to have a life outside that job.  Just when I think I get a handle on this concept and have a pretty good balance going on, in comes social media and all its distractions and interesting things to read, comment and blog on.

I have been pretty in tune with computers, Internet and the ins and outs, fads and changes of social media since the early days of Internet useage.  I have had the pleasure of working for two very well known computer software and telecommunications companies, giving me even more opportunity to learn about the emerging technologies, all the while being paid to do it.

I remember getting excited when Windows 95 came out and getting a new computer with it installed.  I remember getting dial up and my very first email address.  I remember my first hotmail account, which still exists and is used often.  I remember ICQ and all the chats that stemmed from it and the ability to start conversations, drop them and return to them days later like it was nothing.  I had Yahoo Messenger, MSN Messenger, AIM (AOL,) and ICQ running pretty much simultaneously and it was becoming the norm to chat online rather than chat on the phone.  These were all a sign of many things to come.

I started using Facebook in 2007 and I think I was a pretty late bloomer on that.  I tried to put it off and "rebel" against the latest thing, but eventually I began using it to communicate with close friends and family about upcoming wedding plans, and then plans for baby, and so on.  It quickly became the quickest and easiest way to connect with a number of  people, rather than have to make numerous phone calls or emails and hope that the message would be recieved.

This year I have created a blog, setup google +, started perusing Pinterest, created a Facebook Page (but haven't done anything with it yet,) and signed up on Twitter.  Can you say, "information overload?"  Yet this is the new norm.  It's a little bit crazy when you think of it and it can become overwhelming to some.

For me, information is power.  I enjoy taking on these challenges and learning as much as possible and then moving on to the next interesting thing.  The downfall is that there are so many new, cool things going on, it's hard to keep up!  That's when it can become overwhelming.

This is where social media/work/life balance come in.  I began my blog while off on mat leave and able to take a few minutes to write during quiet time during the day when babies were sleeping or after they'd gone to bed in the evening.  I could post 2-3 blogs per week if I felt like it.

I have been back to work almost 2 months, and let me tell you, opportunities to blog have become very difficult to find during my hectic day.

Monday to Friday look like this:
Wake around 5:45 or 6.
Get all 3 kids out the door by 7:45 (Hubby and I might have eaten, but probably not!)
Drop off at two different daycares by 8--One car goes one way, the other car another way.
Get to work by 8:30.
Work till 5:00.
Pick up kids by 5:30.
Get home, make dinner, eat dinner by 6:30 or 7:00.
Play with kids 7:00-8:00.
Get kids in bed 8:00-8:30.
Maybe login to FB and check out what's up in my social world 8:30ish
Around 8:32 realize I can't sit down because there are at least 6 bottles/sippy cups to wash, dishes to be cleared from table and thrown in dishwasher, etc., etc.
Around 9:15 the above might be done.  My back may be killing me.  This is when I may get myself back onto Facebook or set myself up here infront of my blog.  Or maybe I will actually try to watch one tv show in full, without interruption...but probably not!

Right now I can see that there is a serious imbalance between social media, life and work. 

I'm working on it!  I've been able to attend two workshops in the past week on the topic of blogging and Facebook for business.  The facilitators suggest at least 2 blogs per week to maintain a blog.  I would have to agree.  It seems like it might be hard to do this every week, but the bottom line is I am answering to myself and a blog for me is something to be enjoyed and not felt as though it's another "job."  I met a lady this week who said she had a "mommy blog" for four years and finally decided to give it up because it was taking her away from other things, especially family, and she became overwhelmed.

I don't want to get to feeling like she did.  I am now thinking forward about how I would like to see these three great parts of my life balance out and each part be something I can enjoy and bend and flex with, as times and needs change.

To be continued...

13 Oct 2011

Occupational Therapy and TOYS!

I have found myself infront of the computer again tonight because the eldest boy has taken over and has his cartoons on the TV before going to bed.  This is my way of tuning out the same cartoon he's seen at least 10 times!

I've said before that I'd rather browse around online, read the news, the daily gossip, browse other blogs and whatever else I stumble across.  This is my way to unwind.  Tonight while checking out what's going on in the world, I learned it is National Occupational Therapist Month in Canada (and other countries.) 

Prior to my introduction to the World of Preemies, I knew the basics of what an Occupational Therapist was, but I did not know they also worked with newborn babies.  My concept of an OT was that they worked in some form of rehabilitation for individuals who have suffered illness or injury and required one-to-one help with re-learning physical life skills. 

Our first introduction to an Occupational Therapist was during our first NICU hospital stay with Preemie #1.  We met with her a few times to discuss how to avoid "Flat Head Syndrome."  Yes, that's a real thing!  The technical term is "Plagiocephaly."  Say that 5 times fast!  The OT discussed how to use blankets rolled up and positioned in a manner that would help prop him while he slept to avoid him favouring one side or the other.  She showed us how Preemie #1's head shape was showing signs he'd been favouring one side and how we could work to pretty easily correct it.  He now has an awesomely shaped head, if I do say so myself.

Our second/third experience was Round #2 in a different NICU with Preemie #2 and #3 (AKA: Twin A, Twin B.)  This time around we had very different needs, with two very different little babies.  I would say Occupational Therapy began in the very early days of our 27 weekers' lives.  The simple things like positioning the baby, draping them on their tummy in their isolettes was one of the first things done.  Positioning them from side to side, as we did with their older brother.

Then came our introduction to Hydrocephalus.  This is where the greater scope of Occupational Therapy kicked in.  Now our one boy had been diagnosed with Hydrocephalus and the OT stepped in to assist with propping with special pillows to attempt to assist with flow of the cerebral spinal fluid...I guess I should say, to help alleviate some of the swelling of the head.  

Getting ready to come home.
After our little man's first surgery, we were introduced to the "butterfly pillow," which looks like a butterfly.  The baby's head/upper back are placed into the butterfly's centre and the wings basically envelope around the baby's head, giving him a soft, comfortable place to rest his head.  Pillows aren't usually used in the NICU in the isolettes or cribs. Once the baby had his second surgery, his VP shunt inserted, he really needed the butterfly pillow.  In the first few days the baby showed obvious signs that his head hurt if we touched it or when moving him around, therefore being able to prop him on his pillow and build up behind the pillow we could angle him on the opposite side, taking pressure off his sore little head where the new shunt was.  It's amazing what a simple little idea can help with.  These are the ideas of Occupational Therapists and the families they work with.

Propped on a Butterfly Pillow
NICU Discharge Day, August 20, 2010

We were fortunate to work with two different OTs while in our second NICU stay.  The two of them sometimes would meet with me and we would collaborate and think of the best way to handle whatever situation had come up.

After surgery number two, the little man decided he didn't want to be bottle fed or breastfed and started to cough, choke, sputter, every time we attempted a regular feed, and he basically freaked me out!  This is when you could say some "hard core" occupational therapy began.  The OT scheduled during this period worked hard to help me work with the baby and think of how to overcome this latest obstacle to getting discharged from the hospital.  No baby can be discharged if they are unable to eat and continue to gain weight.

We tried smaller amounts of expressed breast milk from a bottle, we tried formula, we tried a combination, we tried just nursing, we tried just bottling...We tried thickener put in with the EBM or formula.  This boy had attitude and he didn't want to have anything to do with any of it!  The OT was so helpful and rational.  She would schedule to come in during one of his feeding times and feed him herself.  She would try re-positioning him during the feeding time.  Holding him in different ways to see how he responded.  In the long run, it was a combination of her hard work, my work and everyone's overall determination and just a matter of time for him to figure it out again.  For a period of time we chose to let him rest and he had a NG tube re-inserted to assist with feeds and help him continue to gain weight.

Eventually we all figured it out and he began to come around.  He was discharged home with a NG tube and only a few days later it was out.  Once home in the comfort of our own space, he caught on to eating well and never looked back.

Twin B Home and propped up with his new Butterfly Pillow,
courtesy of The Linden Fund.

Once discharged from the hospital we didn't lose our connection to the fascinating world of Occupational Therapy.  We had the privilege of being connected with another OT through our local community and health care program.  This OT paid us visits on a weekly basis to assess Twin B's progress and any other concerns that popped up.  She assisted him with physical activities, eating habits and other ideas to help me help him.  For example, we eventually graduated him to his high chair for meal times, along with his twin brother.  He slumped over in his high chair and looked completely lost in the chair.  Our OT came in and assisted with the best positioning and propping to get him comfortable for mealtime.  It's amazing what a coffee towel and some bath towels can do!

The concepts that OTs use at times may seem simple, but to an over-tired mother and father, these simple things to try most likely won't click in our minds.  When you think of it, the techniques OTs sometimes use, as simple as they are, aren't really things the average parent ever has to worry about and therefore it probably doesn't come naturally to most.

Eventually I noticed Twin A was definitely falling behind for hitting the many milestones, so he was able to work with the same OT in the home.  She would exercise both babies, assist with their basic motor functions and see how well they were grasping cause and effect and basic reasoning abilities.

Thankfully we have access to many options and services for our boys.  We have been able to work with a particular children's centre for development and so we have had the privilege of having two different OTs, who focus on different areas of our twins' development.

Recently we were able to part ways with our first OT who had been with us since NICU discharge.  The boys had mastered the skills she was hoping they would and they were discharged yet again.  "Discharged" is a nice word.  Music to my ears.

We continue to work with our second (technically fourth) OT, who works on both boys' motor skills, assessing their abilities and working with them to figure out new ways to teach them and ensure they don't fall too far behind.  This OT gets to play with toys and the boys.  Who wouldn't want a job where you get paid to play with toys and babies??  Although it may seem like innocent and simple playtime to the average bystander, to a mother and an OT, it is a time for assessment, planning and implementation of concepts and ideas to assist the boys in becoming stronger, smarter and capable little boys.

One of our favourite toys at OT sesssions
and at home! Simple, but fun!

I've learned to look at toys and figure out what the true value of the toy is.  Does it help my kids' fine or gross motor skills?  Does it teach them cause and effect?  Is it pretty much a useless toy, that I don't want to waste my money on?  I've found that some of the simplest toys are the best toys for playtime.  Toys don't need all the bells and whistles to be a good toy.  I never would have thought about these things without the help of our Occupational Therapists.

So this month I am very thankful for our Occupational Therapists and I'm glad to recognize October as Occupational Therapists Month! They deserve it!

Thank you Carolyn, Auna, Veronica and Herdip.  Awesome Occupational Therapists!

9 Oct 2011

We Are Lucky and Thankful!

This weekend is our Thanksgiving holiday.  We celebrate with the usual turkey, ham, mashed potatoes and way too many sweets for dessert.  We are very lucky to have a big family and have at least 2 dinners during the weekend, sometimes 3 or 4.  These are the people that have provided my family of five with so much love and support that we couldn't ask for more!  We are lucky to be surrounded by such wonderful people.

When people ask me what I am thankful for, of course my first response is my three boys.  My happy family.  I am thankful for a whole list of people and organizations that never crossed my mind only a few years ago.  I am thankful for having the opportunity to learn about my children's needs and having a better understanding of what it means to be a mother.  If you had asked me this a few years ago I wouldn't have had such an in depth response or given it all that much thought.

I am also thankful for all of the connections of preemie parents, specialists, nurses and those that are interested in the goings on of a preemie family.  I wouldn't have found most of these connections if it weren't for the Internet!

Yesterday, while checking out Facebook, I read a wonderful perspective of another preemie mother on her idea of why "we" are chosen to be the mothers or parents of premature children.  She highlights the fact that as parents we take nothing for granted with our premature babies. We feel lucky and blessed to have these children to call our own.

Here is Elli Drukman's story:

Did you ever wonder how the mothers of premature babies are chosen?

Somehow, I visualize God hovering Earth, selecting his instruments for propagation with great care and deliberation. As he observes, he instructs his angels to take notes... in a giant ledger.

"Armstrong, Beth, son. Patron Saint...give her Gerard. He's used to profanity."

Finally, he passes a name to an angel and smiles. "Give her a preemie."

The angel is curious. "Why this one God? She's so happy." "Exactly," smiles God. "Could I give a premature baby a mother who knows no laughter? That would be cruel."

"But does she have the patience?" asks the angel.

"I don't want her to have too much patience, or she'll drown in a sea of self-pity and despair.  Once the shock and resentment wear off, she'll handle it.  I watched her today. She has that sense of self and independence so rare and so necessary in a mother.

You see, the child I am going to give her has a world of its own. She has to make it live in her world, and that's not going to be easy."

God smiles. "This one is perfect. She has just the right amount of selfishness. "
The angel gasps, "Selfishness! Is that a virtue?"

God nods. "If she can't separate herself from the child occasionally, she will never survive. Yes, here is a woman whom I will bless with a child less than perfect. She doesn't know it yet, but she is to be envied."

"She will never take for granted a spoken word. She will never consider a step ordinary. When her child says "momma" for the first time, she will be witness to a miracle and know it."

"I will permit her to see clear the things that I see - ignorance, cruelty, prejudice - and allow her to rise above them."

She will never be alone. I will be at her side every minute of every day of her life because she is doing my work as surely as she is here by my side."

"But what about her Patron Saint?" asks the angel, his pen poised in the air. God smiles. "A mirror will suffice.

I think this is a beautiful story and a great answer to the "Why did I have a premature baby? Why me?" which I am sure most premature babies' mothers ask themselves. 

This is our second Thanksgiving home with our twin boys and I am no less thankful than I was one year ago.  In fact, I may be even more thankful, having been able to see my babies grow another year and seeing them begin to interact with each other and their big brother.  Every day I am thankful and I tell them so.