Friday, May 1, 2015

Connor Matthew: 7 Months



Dear Connor,

7 months??? Seriously? Where has the time gone. I can still vividly remember the day you were born and the amazing experience of our "Family Centered C-section" like it was yesterday. Since I last wrote you a letter a lot more people have heard about your birth! You see, your birth was kind of a big deal. It was the first "Family Centered C-section" at the hospital where you were delivered. And because of that, we've been in the news a lot. We were on NPR, where people all over the world (millions of people actually) heard your first cries. There were blog posts about us, newspaper articles, and soon we're going to be on TV! Because of you sweet boy, lots and lots of other mommies, daddies, and babies are having better birth experiences and that is pretty amazing! You've made such a difference in this world already, and you're only seven months old!

But most of all, you've made a difference in our family. Having you around is just such a breath of fresh air. When your big brothers act a little crazy, you are my calm. You are the one I can just hold, and snuggle, and breath in deeply and say, "this too shall pass" about whatever chaos is going on. I know you won't stay this way forever, and already we are seeing signs of you wanting to grow up faster than we'd like, but I sure am going to soak in all your sweet baby moments while I can.



You bring calm and kindness to your brothers too. I continue to love watching Ryan and Zachary connect with you. They look out for you, worry about you, and seek to make you happy. Ryan makes you giggle more than anyone else and I can already tell you and Zach are gonna be great buds. You love to try to grab Zach's passy from him at bedtime. And when you do he giggles and says, "No, no Donna (yeah, when he says Connor it sounds like "Donna")!" and you smile and laugh right back...until you realize he isn't giving you that passy and then you start to fuss. But he will then immediately run and get you another one of his pacifiers, which you simply want to chew on and play with. (We're lucky, you could care less about sucking on a passy. And you didn't become a finger sucker as I originally thought you might. Hooray!!)  Its fun to watch the two of you interact and it makes my heart smile every time.



As I mentioned, you definitely want to grow up faster than you are. You are DESPERATE to be able to move around on your own and it frustrates you greatly that you can't yet join your brothers in all their antics. You want to move, and you want to move NOW! You sit all by yourself like a pro now, and don't ever topple over anymore. You love to be held and snuggle, but if your brothers are nearby you squirm and wiggle until you get a good view of them and you squeal in delight at watching them. You're not crawling yet, but I don't think it will be too much longer until you are.

You continue to be such a joyful, happy baby. Recently, we put you in the jumperoo (it was the second time, but the first time you really were too small) and you just LOVED it. I was planning to sell it at a yard sale. But I think this video makes it clear that I certainly can't do that!


 And as joyful as you are, there are other parts of your personality that are beginning to shine through. You have strong opinions and you voice them clearly. If you get a hold of something that you can't have, you make the saddest face and cry huge crocodile tears when it is take away from you. If you want to be held and no one is obliging, you will cry and fuss to such a degree that someone not in the know would think you were hurt. But, you always recover quickly. Its like someone is turning off a switch as soon as the situation is remedied to your satisfaction. But really, this is such a tiny portion of the way you spend your time. Mostly, you are just a happy, go with the flow guy.

Connor, in the 7 months that you have been here you have become an integral part of our family. I can't imagine life without you and I sure am glad that I don't have to!

Happy 7-month-day!

Love always,

Mama

P.S. I missed your six month-day post. But here are some of those pictures:





Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Why the Media Blitz??

Its been a bit of a crazy 2 weeks! The story that high-lighted my Family Centered C-Section was the most read story on all of NPR over the past week. People from all over the country (and world) have seen my and Connor's picture, heard me getting teary talking about the moment my newborn son was placed on my chest, and yes, as a former colleague e-mailed me and said, "You just gave birth in my car!" I guess I gave birth in a lot of people's cars last Monday. 

But what's it all for? Why all the media attention? Well, its about spreading the word about this amazing option for other women. And yes, a lot of other women are hearing about this and requesting it. I received quite a few lovely e-mails from Moms thanking me for paving the way. One said, "I wish I could have experienced that when I had a c-section (maybe someday). Either way, thank you for sharing your story. You bring hope to so many women!" Another read, "Thank you so much for sharing your experience with the world and with me, and for being brave enough to pursue this for yourself. Do you consider yourself a trailblazer? Because I do! I think it is wonderful that you heard about this and even though it hadn't been tried locally, you pursued it...You are paving the way for other interested parents to look into this and experience it for themselves. Thank you for that." I heard from another mom (seen below) who had a family centered c-section at the same hospital where I delivered just a few weeks ago. She posted this picture on a Facebook group I am a part of and said, after reading the NPR article, "I had no idea this wasn't normally a thing! Thank you, Kristen!" 

(Used with permission of AJW)
It's kind of amazing to know that beautiful pictures like the one above exist because my voice was heard by some very caring medical professionals. 

You see, none of this "PR Stuff" is about me, or the attention I'm getting or the number of people who see my picture. Sure, that's all fun and exciting. But, it's really about spreading the word of patient self-advocacy. And how when patients and doctors (and hospitals) work together, with a little help from the media (and social media) amazing things can happen. 

Recently I learned that the hospital where I delivered is pitching the story to other media outlets and thus I started thinking a lot about "what's the next step in this story?" And I decided that if I talked to any other reporters I would talk about how almost any change in medicine starts with individuals expecting more. And so, in having the story spread further, I want to inspire other women to be that FIRST woman at their delivery hospital. I want women (and patients in general) to understand that they can improve their care, and their child's care, and the care of other women by being informed, starting a conversation, and knowing that they deserve to be heard and taken seriously. I was taken seriously by every single person I encountered at Anne Arundel Medical Center. And because of that, change is happening. Women need to hear that. Doctors need to hear that. Other hospitals need to hear that. 

So, yes, do I have a story I want told? Absolutely! But it's not about me. It's about all the other "first" women who will come after me and expect more, and be agents of change because they heard my story.

Monday, March 9, 2015

NPR: The Untold Story

So, the long awaited NPR story about my Family Centered (aka: Gentle) Cesarean aired this morning.

(If you missed it, you can find it here: http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2015/03/09/390977656/the-gentle-cesarean-more-like-a-birth-than-an-operation)

 First I have to say that Jennifer Schmidt the journalist who interviewed us and wrote/recorded the story did a fantastic job of incorporating both the medical perspective and the personal, emotional perspective of this story. She's clearly a fantastic journalist, and we're honored she's the one who told our story.

But as is the nature of radio, the story had to be told in a specified amount of time. In this case, 6 minutes and 39 seconds. And so, a lot of the story has been left out.


First of all, my husband never made an appearance in the story other than being mentioned as the one who recorded Connor's birth and thus allowed for the amazing audio of Connor being born to be aired around the world. But my husband, Matthew Caminiti, did not just record the birth. He helped make this baby (clearly!!)! The story wouldn't have happened without him. He held my hand in the OR as they put in my spinal. He held my hand with one of his throughout the c-section and video taped with my Iphone with the other. (Yeah, we didn't ask for permission to do that. But this was my last birth, and the first family centered one for our family, and our hospital. There was NO WAY we weren't videoing it!) He saw my son with me for the first time. We saw him be born TOGETHER. He reached over and put his arms around both of us seconds after Connor was placed on my chest. And yes, he took that amazing picture (above) that graced the main page of NPR.org all throughout the day on March 9, 2014. The one in which you can see the awe and immense love on my face as Connor's sweet face is squished against mine. It is my most favorite picture. And it wouldn't be if Matt hadn't been there to take it.


During our interview with Jennifer Schmidt, Matt shared with her how much it meant to him that he didn't have to leave me behind in the OR to go be with our baby, as he had when our two older sons were born. He talked about how he never realized how long I was left in the OR without him. With our two older sons he was in the recovery room with a newborn. He watched  them be weighed for the first time. He saw them being cleaned up and wrapped in a blanket for the first time. He saw all these things and so time went quickly for him. But even so, he was left feeling apart from me. And with Connor's birth we experienced it all together. I got to see my husband hold our sweet baby for the first time. I'd never seen that before. There were no "firsts" on Connor's birthday that we didn't experience together and that is pretty amazing and something for which we are so grateful.


Anne Arundel Medical Center chose to use the name I used when asking for this type of c-section: A Family Centered Cesarean. It wouldn't have been family centered if Matt weren't at the center of it with me.

Now, to respond to some of the comments left on the NPR.org website:

For those that keep pointing out that C-sections should not be chosen and that vaginal births are preferable, etc. Yes, yes, and yes. I completely agree. My oldest son was truly stuck. I would have been one of the unfortunate women who would have died in child birth, along with her baby had I not been born in an age of medical advancement that allows for c-sections. Would I have liked to avoid major surgery? Yes, of course. With my second son, I had hoped for a VBAC, and it didn't happen. With my third, I wasn't willing to risk a uterine rupture after already having 2 c-sections so a scheduled c-section it was. Connor was born at 40 weeks (I refused to schedule the c-section before my due date, and my OB was on board) and he came out perfect and in an amazing way.

To those pointing out that no one should feel like less of a woman, mother, or person because they had a c-section vs. a vaginal birth. I hear you! I didn't feel that way at all. I never really thought much about it. Sure, it would have been interesting to experience a more natural birth, but I didn't really give it a second thought. That is, until I saw a video a friend of mine posted on Facebook of "Natural c-sections" being done in England. This video:


After seeing that, I knew it was something that could be safely done, and thus, there was no reason not to try for it. So, I did. You can read in more depth here and here about the extensive planning that went into making the Family Centered C-section Matt and I experienced with Connor happen. So, I didn't seek out this type of c-section because I felt lacking in any way. But once I saw it I thought, "That's amazing! Why wouldn't I want that?"

But, as you heard in the NPR story some women do feel that they really missed out on something. My friend, Valerie Echo Duckett, featured at the beginning of this story did feel that way (yes, I know her. Yes, I connected the journalist to her). Her c-section was much more traumatic than mine. She didn't even remember most of it. I can understand her feeling the way she did. I'm sad she felt that way. And if I can in some small way help other moms to never, ever feel the way Echo did, then I have achieved something pretty amazing and exciting. That is the sole reason why I have agreed to do all of this PR stuff about our story. Yes, its mine, and Connor, and Matt's story. But it is a story that can help other women. And so, I want to spread the story far and wide.

Lastly, no one, certainly not me, is saying that this type of birth is preferable, or the best, or something all women should strive for. But what I am saying, is that if options can be offered to patients that are safe for mother and baby, then they should be. Women should feel empowered and informed throughout their child birthing experience. Patients in a medical setting in general should feel empowered and informed. They should be given choices. They should be involved in decisions. I am honored and grateful that I had so many wonderful people involved in my pregnancy and delivery. Dr. Marcus Penn and Betsey Snow are two amazing medical professionals to whom I will be forever grateful. They allowed my husband and I to fully experience the birth of our youngest son together. They made it possible for me to be the first person, other than the OB to touch my son. These are things that were important to us. It may not be important to everyone. But when it is, and when it is safe, it should be a choice that should be given to all women and their partners.


Sunday, March 1, 2015

Perfectly (and not so perfectly) Melted Moments

The other night, after Ryan was already tucked in, I was on the bottom bunk putting Zach to sleep. I thought Ryan had faded off  when I suddenly heard a little voice. "Mama?" He said. "Yes, Ryan?" I replied. "I think the greatest gift anyone can give is love." Wondering where such a profound statement came from I quickly responded, "Yes, yes it is buddy...I love you." He was sleepy. His voice was quiet. "I love you too, Mama," he said, "And you know what?" Soaking in this sweet moment, I climbed to the top bunk, "What buddy?" I said. "Kisses and hugs are how you get your love into people," he whispered as he planted five wet ones on my cheek and wrapped his arms around me tight. I returned his embrace and let his love and innocence and wisdom soak in.


These are the moments parenting is made of. I'll forget the whining and the arguing (between siblings) and the picky eating, and yes, even the stomach bugs from hell. But moments like these--where the innocence of childhood melts so perfectly together with all the important values and lessons I hope we're teaching--I hope I never, ever forget them. And yet, I worry that I will anyway.

Then, there are of course those moments where I am glad to know that a mother's memory is no where near as good as she wants it to be. 

Yesterday, we decided to take Zachary for a hair cut. I have always cut Zach's hair in the past. I've been cutting my husband's hair since we were married (nearly 10 years now!) and I've cut Ryan's hair since we started buzzing it. And when Zach needed his first hair cut I taught myself how to do a decent "little boy's" cut and have been doing it since with no drama. I'd give him a lollipop, he'd wiggle a little bit, and squirm like any other little boy. But that was it. 

Well, about a month ago, that all changed. I gave Matt his haircut, followed by Ryan. And then came Zach. I started by using the clippers on the back and sides, with the longest guard possible attached. Still no problem. I got the back and sides done. Then it was time to do the top and front with the scissors and he FREAKED OUT! He started yelling, "No Mama! No!" He was sobbing and trying to get away. It was awful. Nothing I said, or did would help. Not even offering him the giant (and I mean HUGE) lollipop he had recently been given for his birthday had any effect. Nothing would convince him to let me come at him with the scissors. So, I did the only thing I could do (remember, I'd already trimmed the back and sides) and used the clippers on his whole head. I was devastated. All his sweet baby hair was gone, just like that. This was him shortly before:
Clearly in need of a haircut. But still looking adorably like my baby.

Annnnnnddd, this was him immediately after the haircut: 

Traumatized and now looking about 17.

See? He didn't look like my baby anymore! On the bright side, I thought, "Well, it's so short we won't need to trim it for a long time!" Well, I was wrong. Its only been about a month and the back and sides around his ears already look shaggy. I'm happy to let the bangs grow and grow. But the rest is already looking a little rough. So, I decided, "Hey! We'll go to one of those cute kid places!" A friend of mine told me about a new place where the kid gets to sit in an airplane, they give them animal crackers or a lollipop, and they put on whatever show the kid wants. Great! Sounds awesome! Let's try it. 

So, try it we did. Yesterday, Zach walked into "Pigtails and Crew Cuts" with the confident swagger of the 17 year-old he looked like immediately post his last haircut (see above). He immediately began playing with the train table and fire station. He said, "Hair cut?" and I said, "Yes. We're here for a haircut!" "Pop?" he asked. Sure, kiddo! You can have whatever the heck you want if you let them cut your hair.

They called his name. I started walking up to the airplane with him. This was no ordinary airplane, this was a Blue Angels airplane! I pointed that out excitedly. And as soon as Zachary realized I had intentions of placing him in that airplane he FREAKED OUT! "NO! Mama!" he said. He writhed in my arms. I offered animal crackers and lollipops. He said, "No!" I coaxed and tried to build up the airplane and the lollipop some more. Nope. Not having any of it. 

Then one of the stylists said, "Is there a show he likes?" Of course! He doesn't like Toy Story (which was playing). Yes! Chuggington! "Zachary! Do you want to watch Chuggington?" "Yesh!" he says. Great! Progress. He sits in the chair. Then suddenly I notice every TV in the place goes black. Wait? What? Then all of them begin with "Chuuuuuug-ing-ton...chugga, chugga, chugga, chugga, Chugginton!" Oh god! Every kid in the place who was happily watching Toy Story is now being forced to watch Chuggington because of my kid. AWESOME. 

But, on the bright side, Zach is sitting in the Airplane. He has chosen a root beer lollipop. He's smiling. I could almost hear the hallelujah chorus in the background. And then, then the stylist came at him with the cape to keep the hair off him. "Noooooo! Mama!" as he clamors out of the plane. "Noooooo!!!!" "Zach! It's ok, you don't have to wear the cape. It's ok," I say, hoping to convince him to stay. 

Seriously? Did this kid think I was going to give him a pop, and turn on his favorite show, and let him sit in this awesome airplane without expecting something in return? Yes, apparently he did. "Noooooo, Mama! No!!" And that was it. We sheepishly gave the woman a tip for her efforts, despite the fact that no hairs were actually cut, and snuck out of the store as easily as we could with a screaming 2 year-old (he was screaming now because I took his lollipop away), a happy 5 y/o (who was thrilled to have swindled a pop of his own from the stylist) and a clueless 5 month-old. Yeah, I don't think we'll be back anytime soon. And, when you see a cute dirty-blonde-haired kid walking around with a lollipop and hair down to his ankles, that will be my kid. He may never get his hair cut again. 

Yeah, some moments in parenting, I'll be happy to forget. But those perfectly melted moments? Those I'll hold in my heart forever.