Roya’s April

Roya was quite the busy 10 month old in April!

Excuse me, Auntie T. I have an important call!

Excuse me. I have to take an important call!

We enjoyed brunch at Auntie Kate’s place, a visit from Grandpa and Nana, Easter service at Western Presbyterian, and my 41st birthday at Bourbon Steak. Roya also continued to go to Gymboree and music class, and we added a Baby Aquatics class into our weekly routine. (Roya is quite the water baby!) And, of course, there was lunch bunch at Peacock Cafe.

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#Cheeks and Auntie KRob at Peacock

The weekend of April 18th found us at the American University Social Learning Summit. It meant so much to me to have Roya and The Man at the conference! The inaugural SLS in 2011 was the first student-run social media conference in the nation!

The youngest #SLS14 attendee! Thanks AUSMC for the photo!

The youngest #SLS14 attendee! Thanks AUSMC for the photo!

Snuggles with Auntie Megan at #SLS14!

Snuggles with Auntie Megan at #SLS14!

The only tough April event came when Roya spiked a fever of 104.9 degrees. I was beyond grateful that it went down in a day, thanks to infant Advil and cool wash cloths.

We ended the month by participating in our first charity walk with my students to benefit the National Eating Disorders Association! An added bonus to holding a charity walk on The National Mall was going on the carousel outside the Smithsonian after we were done.

At the NEDA DC Walk

At the NEDA DC Walk and on the carousel

Hoping your spring was also off to a wonderful start!

#GetNaked

When I was younger, I thought that I needed to get one bad sunburn at the beginning of each summer as a “base tan.” I viewed the fact that I looked like a lobster and was in pain for a week as an occupational hazard of being pale and going to the pool.

I know better now. I avoid spending time in the sun and regularly use sunscreen. My mom had several moles removed over the decades, and my father was diagnosed with skin cancer the year after my mom died. I visit the dermatologist for a mole check once a year. I’ve had a few moles frozen off, but thankfully the doctor hasn’t had to biopsy anything yet.

Even if you have no family or personal history of cancer, it’s still important to monitor your skin and see a dermatologist if you notice any changes. If you haven’t done so yet this year, now is the perfect time to start! Why, you may ask? Well, May is National Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month!

To coincide with this, The Melanoma Research Foundation has launched the #GetNaked campaign.

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Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. Nearly 80,000 people will be diagnosed with melanoma this year. Melanoma is treatable, provided that it’s detected early.

The Melanoma Research Foundation recommends the following prevention and early detection measures:

Check your skin – regularly.

Research has shown that patients, not doctors, are most likely to spot melanoma because they are most familiar with changes on their own skin. In fact, more than half of all melanomas are detected by everyday people – just by paying attention to their or their loved ones’ skin. #GetNaked in front of the mirror and take a closer look at your skin. Learn how to perform a skin self-exam. If you see something funny or different, make an appointment with a dermatologist.

Talk to others.

Don’t be afraid to ask about a mole you’re not sure about. Ask your spouse, your partner, a friend or family member to help you keep track of suspicious moles and check hard-to-see places. Don’t be shy – melanoma isn’t, and it doesn’t discriminate. Melanoma can develop on anyone – no matter their age, gender or race.

Share the campaign with your networks.

You can share information about this campaign on Facebook, Twitter, your blog and/or in person! You can also switch your profile pic to show others that you’re not afraid to #GetNaked in the name of melanoma prevention and early detection. Finally, follow @CureMelanoma on Twitter or like The Melanoma Research Foundation on Facebook to help learn more!

Will you join me in getting naked and helping to spread the word? I’m scheduling my annual mole check appointment tomorrow!

Roya’s March

March typically comes in like a lion and out like a lamb. For Roya, it seemed like the reverse. The beginning of the month found Roya meeting some of my dear friends. (Special shoutout to Auntie Sheila from making time for us during her trip from San Francisco!) We also had a baby date at Iron Gate, celebrated the wonderful Aba Kwawu‘s birthday at Malmaison, and enjoyed several lunches at Kellari, Peacock Cafe and Bourbon Steak.

One milk, straight up At Bourbon Steak

One milk, straight up!

All excited after meeting Aison at Iron Gate!

Excited after meeting Aison!

Roya celebrated several milestones in March. Her second tooth came in, and she began to hold herself up. We noticed that she required a lot more physical activity and stimulation. As such, Gymboree, music class and trips to the playground became part of our daily routine!

Play time with Auntie Ambo

Play time with Auntie Ambo

The Princess and the Pea at Auntie KRob's

Supervising Auntie KRob

In late March, Roya…and the Man…and the nanny all contracted the norovirus. It broke my heart to see Roya in pain and not able to tolerate anything other than Pedialyte. (It didn’t help that I was the only one who felt well enough to take care of her. We were all exhausted that week!)

Roya was so weak that she fell asleep in the hallway in mid crawl!

Roya was so weak that she fell asleep in the hallway in mid crawl!

On the last day in March, we said goodbye to Auntie LC as she left DC for a new job. Oh, how we miss her!

Thankfully, April brought more flowers than showers! I’ll do my best to catch you up on Roya’s adventures before her first birthday on May 31st. xoxo

A Tale of Two Foobs

I was watching TV when I felt a lump in the middle of my right breast. I raised my arm, and I could still feel it. I looked down, and it was noticeable to the eye.

“It’s just scar tissue,” I told myself.  But, I immediately reached for my phone. I sent a message to my breast reconstruction surgeon, Dr. Kathy Huang, thankful that she was only a text away. She replied that she could squeeze me in for an appointment a few days later.

With health matters, I’ve worked very hard to get to a point where I don’t exert a lot of emotional energy over that which is unknown. However, since I’ve become a mom, I find myself edgier about any tests or appointments related to life in remission. The stakes are exponentially higher. Even though I knew that what I felt was most likely nothing, I couldn’t help but going to that place in my head for a few minutes. I didn’t even tell anyone, including The Man, about my appointment for three days.

I was clearly concerned, but I reminded myself of the recent study that indicates that carrying my pregnancy to term didn’t increase my risk of recurrence of my hormone-positive breast cancer. However, that’s not a guarantee that my cancer won’t return. As any “survivor” knows, we might be cancer free, but that doesn’t mean that our lives are free from dealing with cancer and the repercussions of our diagnosis.

The following week, I visited Dr. Huang’s office. After a thorough examination, she commented that she, too, thought the small mass was scar tissue. However, she recommended a breast ultrasound (sonogram) just to be sure. I headed to Sibley the next week for the ultrasound. When the breast radiologist indicated that the lump was in fact scar tissue, I let out a sigh of relief. I exhaled deeply again later that week when my internist informed me that my blood counts were good.

I am thankful that this turned out to be nothing. Yet, I can’t help but think of the loved ones and acquaintances who weren’t and aren’t as lucky. I remain humble and small in the face of this horrible disease.

So, does that mean I’m done thinking about my foobs (my post-mastectomy breasts) until my next MRI?

Well, not exactly.

As I mentioned earlier, I’m still dealing with the repercussions of my cancer diagnosis. The skin around my foobs sags and bunches. (That’s to be expected since I have a connective tissue disorder and got pregnant so soon after my double mastectomy.) I also have very pronounced scars across the entire width of my breasts and no nipples. Dr. Huang proposes another surgery to tighten up the skin. That would also minimize the appearance of the scars and lift my breasts. She would then construct nipples from the excess skin at the end of that surgery.

I miss having nipples and don’t like being so ambivalent about my breasts. I imagine that this surgery will leave me with much-needed feelings of fondness for my foobs. I also know enough about Dr. Huang’s work to know that the foobs will look much better after she works her surgical magic.

I had hoped to have this surgery over the summer, but a change in my childcare arrangement will make that difficult. I need to schedule this when I have ample coverage since I won’t be able to hold Roya for two weeks. The tale of two foobs must be continued…

Should You Follow The Three-Date Rule?

Friend’s Question: Does the three-date rule still apply? I’m not sure whether or not I should have sex with Mr. New Guy after our third date.

I texted my friend with my brief, initial thoughts, but her question seemed worthy of a more thorough answer. There’s no definitive relationship guidebook or treatise on dating that everyone reads and follows. As such, these informal rules – such as waiting until you’ve gone out on three dates before engaging in sexual activity – receive more credence than they should.

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Most importantly, there is no right or wrong time to have sex. This is a personal and intimate choice to make. No rule and no other person, including the one with whom you’re considering having sex, should influence you to do anything that makes you uncomfortable.

There are other concerns with respect to the three-date rule:

  • What is the goal of having sex? Sometimes sex is just sex. If that’s the case, then there might not be the need to wait for three dates or to even go out on a traditional date. But, if you’re looking for a long-term relationship, focus less on the act of sex or timelines and more on getting to know the other person. Take however long you need to build a strong relationship foundation.
  • The three-date rule doesn’t take into consideration the timeline for these three dates. For one couple, three dates might happen in three consecutive days. For another, it might take two months to go on three dates. Likewise, what was the foundation between you two before you went out on your first date? If there’s a history of friendship, you may already have an emotional connection before you add sex into the mix. That might cause you to favor having sex sooner than a couple who is just getting to know each other.
  • Unfortunately, we live in a society in which double standards regarding female sexuality and slut shaming prevail. That can lead to women trying to justify to themselves or others that they are waiting to have sex. One reader wrote me wondering why her partner wasn’t taking her out on dates since she had waited to have sex with him until after three dates. She informed me that their first “date” entailed them meeting at a networking event. The second date was a coffee date, and for the third “date,” she went over his place to have sex. That’s fine if she only wanted sex. However, her questions indicated that she was open to the potential of a relationship that wasn’t just based on sex. In that case, it might have behooved her to wait until they knew each other better.
  • Dr. Susan Krauss Whitborne’s analysis of current research indicates that couples who wait more than a month before having sex have stronger and longer relationships. Age and stage may also impact how soon a new couple has sex. A recent Business Insider survey reveals that approximately one-third of male and female respondents believe that it’s appropriate to have sex sometime after the second-fifth dates. (Note that 37% of the survey’s respondents were between the ages of 18-29.) Over half of the responses favored sometime after the second-ninth dates.
  • The three-date rule doesn’t contain any component of verbal communication. Unless you’re using a condom and just interested in a quickie, there are important issues that should ideally be addressed before having sex. How do you define “sex?” Will you get tested for HIV/AIDS and STIs before engaging in sexual activity? What birth control will you use? Will you spend the night after having sex? What, if anything, does having sex mean? Will having sex create an expectation of exclusivity or regular interaction (via the phone, social media, dates or in the bedroom)? If you don’t feel comfortable talking about any of these things with the other person, then it might be a sign that it’s too soon to have sex.

The above list is merely for your consideration. When you have sex with a potential partner is a decision for you and you alone to make. Just do whatever feels right for you and appropriate for your relationship goals at this point in your life. xoxo

Did I miss anything, readers? What are your thoughts about the three-date rule? Have you ever ascribed to it?

Tips for Dealing with Bed Rest

Friend’s Question: My doctor has put me on bed rest during my pregnancy. Any suggestions for how I can get through it?

Answer: First of all, I’m so sorry to hear that you’re on bed rest. I hope and pray that all will be well soon.

(For those who aren’t familiar with what “bed rest” entails, it’s much more than just taking naps or getting a good night’s sleep! Bed rest is mandated by doctors to prevent complications such as premature labor during pregnancy. Bed rest could be required for a week or several months! As The Mayo Clinic describes, “If you’re on complete bed rest during pregnancy, you might not even be able to shower or eat sitting up.” Bed rest or a similar term can also be used to indicate medically-imposed restrictions following illness, injury or surgery.)

Here are my tips as someone who doesn’t directly know what you’re going through, but has spent a lot of time in bed or at home recouping:
  • Make sure your doctor is very specific as to what you can and can’t do in a given day. When in doubt, err on the side of caution and call the doctor’s office.
  • Keep your eye on the prize and do whatever you can to get through the day. The goal here is a healthy baby. As a mom, you’ll do anything in your power so that your child will not go through one added ounce of pain. You’re just starting that mode while you’re pregnant, instead of when your baby is here. Whatever you need to do, can do or want to do on a given day is all you should do. Period.
  • See about renting a wheelchair and talk with your doctor as to whether that can enable you to get around more, even if it’s just around your own house. Insurance might be able to cover that temporary expense, too.
  • Move into the room that you find the most peaceful (ideally one that’s also closest to a bathroom and doesn’t involve any stairs).
  • Figure out if you need help, want company or neither. There’s no right or wrong, but I feel as though some people get that you might need help with grocery store runs, laundry, dog walks, etc. They will offer to help and if you feel comfortable having them in your home, take them up on it. Other people will just think you want someone to chill with and will expect you to host them if they come over. Decide if you are up for that physically and emotionally. If you don’t feel like seeing people while on bed rest, it’s ok to say that you’ll check in with people once you’re able to get out and about.
  • Try to keep some of your normal routine. My hairdressers and nail techs offered to come to my house many times. I’m sure if your stylists and techs knew that you couldn’t come to them, they would do the same! If that would make you feel more like yourself, reach out to them.
  • Invest in whatever you can to make this time easier — a cleaning woman, a dog walker, food delivery service, stores that will deliver and assemble nursery furniture, etc… It’s worth it.
  • Ask your doctor for a case manager. A case manager can access your limitations and living situation and recommend solutions. Maybe you need a shower chair or to rent an adjustable bed? Maybe a prenatal physical therapist or home health aide could be of benefit? Case managers can also check as to what’s covered by insurance.
  • Consider if you want to connect with someone in the area who went through a similar experience during pregnancy. Sidelines is a nonprofit that provides such services. There are also online forums and women your doctor can connect you with.
  • Remove the pressure involved in having to use the time to write the next great American novel, journal, make a baby book or anything else. If you want to do any of those things, fine. If not, that’s fine, too.

So, readers, what are your recommendations for dealing with bed rest?

The DC NEDA Walk

Why am I participating in the DC National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) Walk Sunday?

  • I walk as someone who suffered from anorexia-bulimia in my late teens and early 20s.
  • I walk in recognition of the fact that eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.
  • I walk to support my students who have eating disorders or are in recovery.
  • I walk to help raise awareness about NEDA, the leading nonprofit advocating on behalf of those with eating disorders. The organization focuses on prevention, access to quality treatment, and increased research funding. NEDA provides a confidential Information and Referral Helpline. The nonprofit also offers personal support to individuals who are suffering from eating disorders and the loved ones trying to help them.
  • I walk in the hope that Roya will never see her body as anything other than beautiful.
  • I walk in recognition of the fact that the media, advertising and entertainment industries do not promote healthy standards of female beauty.
  • I walk in the hope that times have changed since the early 1990s and my college no longer needs to permanently lock the bathrooms by my dorm dining hall.
  • I walk out of concern for a society in which approximately half of male CEOs are overweight, while only 5-22% of female CEOs are overweight.
  • I walk to show my support for the 7 million females and 1 million males in the US suffering from an eating disorder.
  • I walk alongside others who share NEDA’s mission of a world without eating disorders.

If you are in DC on Sunday, April 27, please join me on The National Mall to raise awareness about the National Eating Disorders Association and funds for its programs and services. If you’re not in DC, please help spread the word about this worthy organization.

Roya’s February, Part 2

Once Roya started to feel better in early February, I decided to enroll her in a Gymboree class. At eight months, she had yet to actually play or interact with other babies her age. I thought that she would like Gymboree, but didn’t expect her to love it so much! The teachers at the NW DC location are wonderful, and the infants are so cute as they laugh and play together! (I guess I was surprised at how much I enjoy it, too!)

Roya at Gymboree

Roya at Gymboree

We also picked up a play zone and foam tiles for Roya from Target. The play zone contains enough to stimulate Roya, but it’s not overwhelmingly loud or bright. (That’s a win for her and a win for me!)

With respect to the puzzle foam mats that are the norm for families with infants, I learned after purchasing the tiles that they have been banned in Europe for containing a toxic chemical. (Is there anything else other than thick carpeting that can be used in lieu of these mats? Please comment if you’ve found something that works for infants!)

Check out Roya’s moves in the play zone:

The cold and snowy weather impeded us from heading to the playground, but we managed to make it to weekly story time and music time at the library. I had to laugh out loud that Roya was the only one in the infant/toddler class to know what to do with a drum before the teacher showed the group.

Girl in the Hood

Girl in the Hood

We continued to try to introduce Roya to solid foods. She still wasn’t a fan, although her expressions in the high chair are priceless.

Can you blame me for being so in love with my little, funny Valentine?

Let (This) Mommy Sleep, Part 3

When I reached out to Let Mommy Sleep, I was hopeful that Denise Stern and her team of nurses and sleep consultants could help me. I never imagined, though, just how much LMS would help and how quickly.

After I emailed Denise with my answers to the Sleep Questionnaire, I received a customized plan for Roya. The five-page, single-spaced plan included information about eating solids, bottle feeding, quiet time, napping, bath time and nighttime sleeping and feeding. I thrive on organization and details, and this plan was perfect in both regards!

I spoke with Denise over the phone to review the plan and ask a few questions. We also talked through how to implement some of the recommendations for nighttime feedings. I felt supported, and the plan, though long, was manageable.

Within 36 hours, Roya was only up once a night. Within six days, she slept a nine-hour stretch. The next night was a ten-hour stretch. And, then another…and another. After a week of Roya sleeping through the night, I had more physical and mental energy. The bags under my eyes began to finally disappear. Not surprisingly, I laughed a lot more, lost my patience less and had friends notice the change in my demeanor!

Over the course of seven months, I’ve shed a lot of tears of exhaustion and frustration because of sleep deprivation. A short email to Let Mommy Sleep changed all of that!  I began implementing the suggestions from the sleep plan four weeks ago, and despite the norovirus, teething and vaccines, Roya is still sleeping well. If Roya’s patterns dramatically change, I’m thankful that Denise is only a phone call away.

If you or a loved one are a sleep-deprived parent of an infant four months or older, I highly recommend that you contact Let Mommy Sleep! A sleep consultation includes:

  • A customized care plan for your baby;
  • A one-hour phone consultation (in one or two calls); and
  • Unlimited phone/email follow up.

The regular price for a sleep consultation from Let Mommy Sleep is $200, but LMS is kindly offering my readers a discount. If you mention Stef Woods or City Girl Blogs, you’ll get all of the above for $175!

For those of you who live in DC, Northern Virginia or Maryland, there are plans that include a three-hour in-home sleep consultation. There’s also a Baby Sleep 101 workshop in Fairfax, Virginia, on April 23rd.  Full details are available here.

Thank you, Denise, so very much! Now, is there anything you can do to help with temper tantrums ;)?

Disclaimer: Pursuant to FTC Guidelines, I, Stef Woods of CityGirlBlogs.com, received sleep coaching from Let Mommy Sleep in exchange for my honest assessment of LMS’ services. No monetary compensation was received for this or any other post. Let Mommy Sleep reserves the right to discontinue the discounted pricing for a sleep consult at any time.