This blog is about life with a baby. It's not always you you expect and there is definitely no job description. Every baby is different and unique which is why motherhood can be so scary, fun, terrifying, exciting and rewarding all at the same time.

We encourage you to share your experiences - by sharing your experiences and commenting on other posts, you may be helping other moms.
  • Wednesday, December 07, 2016 1:21 PM | claire (Administrator)

    So, you may have seen online that parents are spending thousands of dollars trying to get the Hatchimal toy for the holidays. Thousands of dollars for a toy that retails for under $50. Now, I'm not the type of person to tell parents what to do, but I do have some other suggestions of gifts for the holidays that everyone in the family will enjoy.

    My kids are now aged 9 and 5 and for the last few years Santa has spent less than $50 on each child's toy. The kids know that Santa has a budget and they are fine with that.

    Last year my daughter's most treasured gift was a box of hand written notes with experiences that we can all do together. There was a variety of activities from going to the movies to picnic at the local park. They ranged from things for the whole family to things for just her and one parent. She treasured this gift more than anything else she received.  

    For years I gave my son things that he enjoyed that didn't cost any money. One year it was a box all wrapped up with nothing inside, another year it was bubble packaging that I had collected throughout the year that he could pop to his delight. Kids just love having fun, and often they don't need a new toy.

    I've found that experiences are much preferred over things and often the toy gets played with once and then forgotten about. Even worse? Kids change their minds between the time they send their letter out to Santa and when the gifts are delivered leaving you expecting your child to be overjoyed that you got the toy they wanted, and in reality, they couldn't care less.

    Unlike that toy that is discarded and forgotten about minutes after they open it, experiences are remembered for years and provide a great bonding experience. The best part is it's something the entire family can enjoy. Here are the tops three things that I'd suggest putting that $1000 towards instead of a toy.

    Go to the theatre.  Our favourite in the Toronto area is the annual Ross Petty Musical. You are guaranteed to laugh throughout the performance, and you'll get immense joy out of the look of wonder on your child's face. Not only will you have a great time, you'll have lots of money left over for another activity. Feel like the money is burning a hole in your pocket? Turn it into even more of an evening out by going to dinner before the show.  The ultimate experience would be to turn a stay-cation by booking a hotel downtown for the night and exploring downtown with the family the following morning.

    Take a family vacation. Take that $1000 you would be spending on a toy and put it towards a family vacation together. Which kid has ever said I don't want to go on a vacation? It's something you can all enjoy together, and the memories made will be priceless. My top pics of places to stay in Ontario are Blue Mountain Resort and Fern Resort. Why not save up for a big trip to Disney? It might take a few years but it's a much better option that spending that money on a toy that won't last.

    Backyard Trampoline. You are probably thinking that's not an experience, but it is. It's an experience that happens in your yard every day. For me, the kids get home from school, and they are in the backyard playing for over an hour while I'm making dinner. Of course, it's not for just the kids, so we hop on all the time. I like that I can jump for 10 minutes and get a good cardio workout and it's the equivalent of running for 30 mins. We got a Springfree Trampoline which means we can jump all year long, and since kids like snow, they'll love playing with fresh snow right on the trampoline. Since we  got our trampoline, we no longer go to indoor playgrounds to burn off energy which saves us money we can use towards another family gift.

    Another big savings for us this year was at home birthday parties. Both the kids wanted to have a trampoline party at home. That saved us over $1000 and honestly between the savings form indoor playgrounds, and savings from parties - that cost of your trampoline is covered easily.

    The main thing here is to think about ways to have fun as a family and make your hard earned dollars go further. I'm sure we can all agree that there are better ways to spend $1000 than on a Hatchimal toy. 

  • Thursday, December 01, 2016 9:01 PM | claire (Administrator)

    Stigma is a real and debilitating problem affecting new mothers. I had Postpartum Anxiety & Depression more than 8 years ago and then had a second child without experiencing any depressive symptoms.  Since then, I’ve created a charitable organization that supports other new parents through education and support.  BUT the stigma is always there in the back of my mind.  Every time that I share my story, or discuss the challenges I know that PPD is linked with my name and if I wonder will this affect my career prospects?  What will people think of me?

    It’s true that, thanks to the media and others who are ignorant about perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs), people believe mothers with PPD think of harming their babies or will harm their babies or children.  I’m baffled that we continue to talk about PPD ONLY after a tragedy occurs, and I know this only helps to reinforce the idea that moms with PPD hurt their kids.

    Because of a recent tragedy, I’ve had many moms contact me with severe anxiety, worried that they could “harm their child” because they have PPD. They’ve seen media articles saying that this behavior is normal, or common with PPD.  I’m seeing firsthand how when we speak about this only after a tragedy we increase the stigma and create fear.

    I think it’s important to provide credible, evidence based, supportive information about PMADs and clearly establish the difference between depression and psychosis.   I understand the need to ”normalize” parenting challenges and postpartum depression – I get it, I’ve been there.  Even so, I think this a very important topic and we NEED professionals who research or work directly with parents or who suffer from PPD to join the conversation.  The fact is: postpartum psychosis is rare and serious condition and should be treated as such.

    “It’s easy to feel, when you hear of a tragedy, that you are capable of terrible things. The truth is that the vast, VAST majority of mothers with perinatal mood or anxiety disorders never do anything to harm their children. Not ever.  “The fact that you have PPD or postpartum anxiety does not make you a dangerous person, just a person with an illness. It is also true, though, that mothers with postpartum psychosis or postpartum depression that has become so severe that it has psychotic features have the potential of harming their child. Notice I didn’t say they will harm because most do not and would not. They simply have the potential to harm, usually due to delusions and hallucinations that make a mom believe she needs to do something dangerous to protect her children or others, NOT because she is a bad or evil person. This is why if you’re having delusions or hallucinations or other symptoms of psychosis you need to call a doctor right away, for your own health and safety. If you’d like to see our list of symptoms, check here:

    All moms who suspect they have a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder should reach out for professional help, not because they’re dangerous but because they deserve to feel like a healthy mom who is able to function as she would like. Additionally, your children need you to be as healthy as possible. Getting help is a gift to your family. You deserve to be well.

    Meantime, know that perinatal mood and anxiety disorders are very common and all the women who have them are regular, everyday, good people, just like you and me. It’s just an illness and is temporary and treatable with professional help.”

    I also reached out to Hiltrud Dawson, a health promotion consultant with the Best Start Maternal Newborn Resource Centre in Canada who provided the following:

    “Some parents experience irrational thoughts and may see repetitive pictures of harm in their minds eye, even without any other symptoms of a postpartum mood disorder. Apparently this happens to about 40% of new parents (dads included) mostly during the last trimester of pregnancy and the first few weeks or months postpartum.

    The theoretical thinking behind this is that parents need to adapt their protective system to protecting themselves only to now being responsible for a little life as well. A lot of things can happen and these thought flash into their minds. Sometimes it is linked to common tasks or circumstances (what if I dropped my baby in the bath, what if I dropped my baby when I am carrying her/him downstairs?) Sometimes the thoughts get more irrational, for example while cutting vegetables for supper, they may see a knife hurting the baby.

    Often the more they struggle against these thoughts, the more often they appear seemingly unprovoked and out of nowhere. How do we know it is a “normal” parenting response? I don’t think we can ever be completely complacent. A good assessment by a skilled professional would be very helpful here.

    In the meantime, getting someone to talk about these thoughts and images is very powerful. It does a couple of things.

    1) It makes the parent realize that the thought, picture is irrational and they often confirm that they would never act on this.

    2) It makes the parent realize that this happens to others as well. It has been shown that after parents talk about these thoughts and images there experience of them will lessen.

    If you have scary and unwanted thoughts and images or other symptoms of PPMD, talk to your healthcare provider. Get  a good assessment by a skilled professional and reach out for support from knowledgeable professionals and mothers who have been there. ”

    If you are living in Canada visit for me information on the signs, symptoms and where to get help.

    Raising a baby is a wonderful experience, but it is can also be a challenge… If you are a new parent (mom or dad) and want to connect with peers to learn more about parenting, connect with others, and have fun with your little one(s) join us at  Our unique approach will help you overcome some of the challenges you face as a new mom so that you can enjoy your new baby and maintain a happy, healthy family dynamic.



    About the Authors:

    Claire Kerr-Zlobin is the Executive Director of Healthy Start, Healthy Future and Founder of the Life With A Baby program.   Life With A Baby is a three-tiered peer support system for parents.  It offers local, community-based social events to build relationships, online support, and multi-lingual parenting programs.  Claire founded Life With A Baby after her own struggles with social isolation and depression.  Life With A Baby serves over 5000 members across the province of Ontario. Claire is involved in innovative initiatives and partnerships focused on peer support, parenting, newcomer supports, parent engagement, and financial literacy.  She is passionate about supporting parents, developing collaborations, reducing social isolation, and building healthy and strong parent-child relationships.

    Hiltrud Dawson has extensive experience in the maternal newborn field as a nurse, midwife, and lactation consultant. She had been a health promotion consultant with the Best Start Resource Centre/Health Nexus for over seven years. Hiltrud provides training and consultations to health and social service providers on perinatal mood disorders and has been the project lead in the development of a number of resources for both parents and service providers such as the “Life with a New Baby” video, brochure and website. Hiltrud is also an active member of several associations and networks.

  • Wednesday, November 16, 2016 10:52 PM | claire (Administrator)

    Written by Brandee Foster

    Cold and flu season. These four words strike fear into the heart of pretty much every parent I know. Bringing a baby home from the hospital is daunting at any time of the year, but those of us who are parents to fall and winter babies have experienced the joys of trying to keep our new, tiny little people from coming down with the many cough, runny nose and flu-like ailments that seem to plague people pretty steadily between the months of October and April, give or take a few weeks.

    When you have just had a preterm baby, though, the thought of bringing that wee babe home and exposing them to the sickness and germ stew that you find in most public places during this time of year is downright terrifying. Having just spent days, weeks, even months in a place where you have to scrub up upon entry and you are taught to wash and sanitize before you touch your own child, the thought of other people's germs can be a tough one to swallow.

    My son was born a few days before Thanksgiving 8 years ago. At birth, he weighed 4 pounds and 11 ounces, and was the smallest human being I had ever seen. He wasn't allowed to leave the NICU until he was able to gain enough weight to keep him over the 5 lb mark. He was so tiny, and I was so terrified. Given that he was in the NICU, it wasn't too hard to limit visitors in those first couple of weeks. Once he came home, though, everyone wanted to meet the baby and the visitors started to flood in. I was absolutely terrified that someone would bring their germs around the baby and he would get sick. He was already so small, and had already been through a fight,so the thought of him getting sick made me a bit crazy. In order to preserve my sanity, as well as those around me, I had to find what I was and wasn't comfortable with pretty quickly. Since I didn't know any other NICU parents, though, I was sort of own my own in figuring out what worked and what didn't.

    - Saying no: I had to get good pretty darn quickly at putting my little family first, even if that decision wasn't always what others wanted. I knew that in order to protect my little dude the best we could, we couldn't be shy in asking potential visitors how they were feeling *before* they came over. I also got wise and started asking if they had been around any sick kids or adults, even if they, themselves, were feeling ok. At first I felt bad asking and screening visitors like that, but I knew that if it was me being asked, I wouldn't be hurt, but would do my best to understand that the little babe had to come first. I stopped worrying so much about hurting people's feelings when it came to the baby. Any sign of a cold and it was hands off. My husband was forever scooting off the other way in public places when he saw people with that droopy, sick look come anywhere near our son and he had zero qualms about asking people to admire from afar if they were coughing or sneezy.
    - Wash: Don't be afraid or intimidated to ask people to wash their hands before the touch the baby. There is a very good reason why the NICU makes you scrub up, and that is to protect all of those vulnerable little ones. Same goes for at home. No washing? No touching!

    - Sanitize on the go: Hand sanitizer became my best friend. To this day, we have remained close companions, actually and I always carry a bottle in my purse, and use it often, especially during this time of year. I bought bottles of nicer smelling stuff when I could find it, and used good old alcohol based Purell when I couldn't. Hand washing is best, but there are times when you just can't get to a sink, and this gives me peace of mind. When my son was young, anyone who wanted to touch or hold him had to was hand sanitize. I had bottles in the diaper bags, in the car and at the house.

    - Get out: We didn't sequester ourselves in the house all the time. We had weekly doctors appointments for the first few months of his life, and we had things that needed to get done. We just went about our business as usual and hoped that everything would be okay. Isolating ourselves in the house wouldn't have been good for my mental health, and as hard as it was to remember sometimes, I had to remain healthy too. We couldn't hide away just because we were afraid of the baby getting sick. After seeing how strong he really was during his time in the NICU, we knew we had to balance practicality with concern and life had to continue on. - Keep it fresh: We did a lot of boiling of things that went into our son's mouth or near it. Soothies, nipples, teething toys, anything that might have a decent chance of coming into contact with a little mouth was routinely cleaned and boiled for that extra bit of freshness.

    - Don't be afraid: One piece of advice that our doctor gave us was not to be afraid of a bit of dust or dirt. It seemed really counterintuitive to me after the sterility of the NICU, but she explained that children who were kept in perfectly sterilized, spotless environments didn't have the same opportunity to build up their immune systems as those who didn't, so once the baby was healthy enough to be discharged, not to be too scared. This was a big one for me and one I wished I had taken to heart a bit sooner than I did.

    - Trust yourself: you are the parents and ultimately, you are the keeper and protectors of your little human, and you know what is best. Reach out and ask for help if you are unsure. Trust your gut. You know your child best. Don't worry about "bothering" the doctors office,or the people at the 24hr Nurse Line. That is what they are there for, and so what if they privately brand you a crazy parent? You can't buy peace of mind,and when you listen to your heart, you will rarely go wrong.

    Honestly, it's now 8 years later and these are still a lot of the same cold season coping strategies that I use. I found that once our son started school, he began this seemingly never-ending cycle of fall and winter sickness. No matter how hard you try to avoid it, the germs are out there, but if you use some common sense and follow your gut, you should be just fine.

    This post is part of the #HealthyThisWinter Campaign sponsored by AbbVie Canada. The experience and comments listed above are my own.

  • Wednesday, November 16, 2016 10:35 PM | claire (Administrator)

    Written by Fabiana Bacchini 

    It was a cold and rainy morning when I drove to Mount Sinai Hospital in the middle of fall. I had taken that drive hundreds of times over the last 6 months. That morning, however, it would be the last one I drove with an empty car seat. On the way back home later that afternoon, I was going to have my miracle baby Gabriel with me.


    Gabriel was born at 26 weeks gestational, 14 weeks ahead of time, to our surprise, weighing a mere 2 pounds. My surviving twin spent 146 days in the NICU and that morning he was finally going home, still on oxygen, but nevertheless going home.


    During our NICU stay we were part of a pilot study called Family Integrated Care, which encourages families to be part of the team and care for their babies despite of their size and condition. I had spent over one thousand hours by his bedside and attended education classes 5 days a week. Therefore, I knew very well the risks of Gabriel getting sick once he was discharged. A simple cold would not be a simple cold for him. Because he was born so early, his lungs were very premature and it would be a while until he was strong enough to fight germs like a full term baby.  It’s on the third trimester of the pregnancy that the babies get a boost to their immune system. I had missed the entire trimester. Gabriel’s immune system was fragile and I had to be extra cautious during the coming winter months, when everyone seems to get sick.


    I had a plan in mind leaving the hospital. My plan was to hibernate. I locked myself inside the house with him and we only went out for doctors or therapists’ appointments. I bought boxes of hand sanitizer and it was almost part of my home décor. I had spent months ‘brain washing’ my 3 year old son, Thomas, to hand wash as often as possible. I knew I had to keep him healthy so no germs would come inside the house, but he was in a full day Montessori school in the peak of the flu season.


    Half way through December, Thomas came home coughing. I panicked and isolated Gabriel in his bedroom with his oxygen tanks and monitor. Two days later, he started to cough and I knew he wasn’t breathing well. Back we were at the hospital and my little guy admitted with pneumonia. It was a hard time. We spent Christmas in total isolation in the Intensive Care Unit at Sick Kids Hospital.


    Two weeks later, he was home and I was scared that it could happen again. From January to March, I didn’t leave the house and no one came to visit us. My grocery shopping was done on-line. I made my husband change his clothes after work before touching Gabriel. I isolated myself and by March I wasn’t feeling great.


    In the beginning of spring, one of Gabriel’s doctors asked me how I was doing and he reassured me that he was stronger and it was time for me to get out of the fight or flight mode. So, one Saturday morning I decided to pack the diaper bag and go out with the kids to a shopping mall with the oxygen tank and monitor. I felt I was seeing life for the first time, everything seemed so fast paced. It was a fun morning walking around the mall with the kids and for the first time in months I felt a sense of normality.


    It was time to get life back, to do the things we always loved to do as a family. I realized that being healthy was more than not having pneumonia or the flu. Being healthy for us meant living life to the fullest, enjoying what we have today; celebrating the little things, finding the balance that we all strive for.


    It was a hard winter for us as a family and if I could do it all over again, I would have left Gabriel with my husband for a couple of hours to do grocery shopping or to go for a coffee with a friend. Or perhaps, I would have gone for dinner to a nearby restaurant with my husband for an hour or two. Hibernating did not prevent Gabriel from getting sick and made us all feel the winter blues. On our second winter, I did everything I could to find some balance so we could all enjoy the cold months.


    To all families recently discharged: keep a good hand washing routine, find someone you can trust to leave the baby for one hour or two, go for a walk, ask for help, invite a friend to come over to have a cup of coffee with you. These are little things that can help you get through the first winter with your miracle baby at home.


    Enjoy it! After all, the NICU days are now a memory.

    This post is part of the #HealthyThisWinter Campaign sponsored by AbbVie Canada. The experience and comments listed above are my own.

  • Wednesday, November 16, 2016 10:33 PM | claire (Administrator)

    Written by Alana Romain

    There’s nothing easy about spending any length of time in the NICU with your baby, but if your preemie came especially early or faced significant complications, life in the NICU can sometimes feel like it will never end. When my twins, Reid and Madeleine, were born at 25 weeks gestation in 2012, it was hard for my husband, Matt, and I to imagine that we’d ever be a “normal” family living together at home. But almost four months after they were born, our babies finally came home. We were overjoyed, but I was surprised to learn what a huge adjustment it can be to leave the hospital. And for parents bringing their preemies home in the winter — aka, prime time for germs that could be really dangerous to their vulnerable immune systems — the transition can sometimes feel overwhelming. So if discharge from the NICU is on the horizon, and you’re worried about how to handle it, here are some of the things I wish I’d known about surviving cold and flu season with a preemie.

    First thing’s first: you are not being paranoid if you’ve suddenly turned into a huge germaphobe. No matter how lax you may have once been about germs and illness, the NICU inevitably turns pretty much every parent into a hand sanitizing, germ-fearing crazy person. When we were facing our first winter with our twins, I was very strict about hand hygiene, denied any visitors who had even the slightest throat tickle, and insisted that our extended family members get flu shots (even if they’d never gotten them before in their lives). I knew that not everyone understood why these things were important, and struggled with some guilt at feeling like I was overreacting or being unreasonable. But the truth was, we’d been through so much during our twins’ hospitalization that the last thing I wanted was to see them readmitted because they’d caught RSV. Looking back now, I wish I’d known I didn’t have to apologize for wanting to protect my babies. And I’d much rather have been too over-the-top than be left feeling like I hadn’t done enough.

    In all honesty, our first winter after the NICU was one we largely spent at home in a kind of self-imposed isolation — and I’m glad we did it that way. The twins were still so young and small, and the memory of hospital life was so fresh in our minds, that there didn’t seem to be any rush to get them out into the world and expose them to the coughing, sneezing masses. We maintained the NICU practices of hand washing and hand sanitizer, and did our best to keep Madeleine and Reid as protected as possible from illness (that became particularly difficult when Matt and I both ended up with a totally debilitating stomach flu, but with a little help from some loved ones, we were able to stay away from the twins long enough that they remained totally healthy). 

    Coming home from the NICU is daunting no matter what time of year it happens, and it really is a big adjustment to figure out “life on the outside” when all you’ve known so far as a parent is nurses and doctors and hospitals. What I wish I’d known then is that it’s OK to be worried or nervous or uncomfortable, and it’s also totally fine if you aren’t a laid-back parent the way you might have been if you hadn’t had a preemie. Any parent who’s had a premature baby knows that it is scary and at times completely heartbreaking, and that the worries that you felt when they were born don’t necessarily go away as soon as you are discharged.

    If you’re preparing to bring your preemie home this winter, congratulations, you made it! You’ve got so many wonderful experiences ahead of you. But navigating cold and flu season with a preemie really can be nerve-wracking and complicated, so it’s important that you do whatever you feel is best to get through it. No guilt or apologies required.

    This post is part of the #HealthyThisWinter Campaign sponsored by AbbVie Canada. The experience and comments listed above are my own.

  • Wednesday, November 16, 2016 10:30 PM | claire (Administrator)

    Written by Christina Moss - Mississauga, Ontario

    It's the most wonderful time of the year..." I thought as I announced I was pregnant on Christmas Eve to my family with a Christmas Card from Baby saying they were excited to meet them.  I looked around the table and pictured a high chair at the end, between my husband and myself. The baby would be 5 months next Christmas. How memorable that first Christmas will be, filled with more love, laughter and little giggles.

    Fast forward to May, and at 27 weeks and 2 days, my water began to leak. After 6 days in hospital, my daughter surprised us all when she came into the world at 28 + 1. All the joys of becoming a first time parent that I had envisioned seemed to have vanished in an instant as our concerns were now focused on getting my baby the care she immediately needed.

    We spent the majority of the summer in the NICU. We learned about proper hand hygiene, taking care of ourselves so we could take care of our baby, and learned just how fragile a preemie baby could be. I missed only ONE DAY of her 91 day stay because I was feeling  like I was fighting a cold. I still hate that I missed one day of her journey, but I was doing it to protect her and to keep her safe.  Her safety and well-being was my new priority. 

    A week before discharge after our stay of just over 3 months, we were given our RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) and winter season educational talk in the midst of other daunting paperwork and chats. Life was going to feel different now. No guests with signs of a cold or flu, make hand washing stations, hand sanitizers at every door, and to not take any chances with her health. Keeping our child safe in our own home became our number one priority.  It scared me. It really scared me. My husband and I made sure to get our Flu shots as soon as the season began and changed our routines. We lived in a germ free bubble. If I heard a sneeze, I grabbed her and ran the other way. No way was she getting sick on my watch. 

    The first major family holiday since her discharge the end of August came in October. My baby’s first Thanksgiving. So our emails and messages started flying: “If you've been near anyone sick, stay home. If you show up and sneeze you have to leave…” It was segregating us from everyone else. We missed the "typical" family Thanksgiving, since not everyone could be certain of not being ill. That was fine. I convinced myself I wasn't a big Thanksgiving person anyways. 

    Then, Fa La La…my baby’s first Christmas rolled around and the same emails flew around. This time with: "Please get your flu shot because she’s  too young and fragile to get her own.”. We have always had huge Christmas gatherings. Christmas Eve was the biggest day, when my side of the family had our big Seafood Feast. Well, we had three school aged cousins and one teacher on my side. They were amongst a population who frequently fall ill and I just couldn't risk it. I couldn't bring my Preemie and risk her getting the flu, a cold, or worse, RSV. We asked the RSV clinic and they advised that it was best to skip this year. So we did (sort of). 

    My immediate family, my Mom, Brother and Sister (who received flu shots) were supportive and joined us in our new home by making a small version of our typical feast. Even my in-laws (who were mixed on the idea of a flu shot) got theirs as a sign of their support. My extended family was beyond supportive of our decision to not attend, more than I ever expected. And thanks to technology, we were able to share the holiday from afar... on Skype! No hugs were shared, no sounds of little giggles around the table like I expected for them. Instead a quiet night in, protecting my baby the best way I knew how. 

    I'm not going to lie, it was depressing (at the time) to sacrifice my annual Christmas traditions. It was one of the darkest Christmases I've ever experienced, emotionally. I felt sheltered. I felt alone at many times. I felt like no one knew what I was going through. It was after a few months into RSV season that I realized that I wasn’t alone. Many Preemie parents feel this way and make these small sacrifices (they never feel small at the time) for their children. It's what makes you a good Parent. Our babies are our world. She is my world. I was able to protect her that first winter.  I did my duty. I kept her safe. I protected her. I was Mom. I am a Preemie Mom!

    This post is part of the #HealthyThisWinter Campaign sponsored by AbbVie Canada. The experience and comments listed above are my own.

  • Wednesday, November 16, 2016 10:25 PM | claire (Administrator)

    Written by Lesley Donaldson-Reid

    Home life with a baby wasn’t what we thought it was going to be before Torran’s premature birth. Our first winter at home with our son, Torran, he was six months corrected age. He had come home from the hospital in late July after 139 days in Mt. Sinai and Sick Kids in Toronto. His head was the size of a one year old due to hydrocephalus, a swelling of fluid in the brain.

    November was the first month since being born at 26 weeks and 6 days gestation in March that Torran wasn’t hospitalized for some health problem or another brain surgery.

    Our struggles with prematurity did not end when we left the hospital. We brought home a complicated little man who required weekly medical appointments, daily professional interventions, and constant therapy provided by his parents.

    We monitored his smallest actions, feeling the biggest responsibility for getting him to his milestones. He had hearing loss, fine and gross motor delay, and contractures, among other things. The only thing Torran could do well was eat and poop.

    We sanitized everything and declined visits to, or from, friends with colds. Our social sphere shrunk and life focused on Torran’s development. I wouldn’t take my son to play groups for fear of infection and RSV. He had already had two colds despite our isolation, which, thankfully, didn’t turn into pneumonia. I also didn’t want to feed the bitterness that lay just a tiny scratch beneath the surface of my skin.

    By December, Torran transferred from the bassinet at my bedside to a crib in his own room. Because of a problem with his shunt surgical site, we inclined his mattress and secured him in a Tucker Sling that prevented him from sliding down.

    I missed rooming in with him dearly. I stood by his bed, or stared at his camera monitor, apologizing to him that I pushed him so hard to do his best every day. Every night I checked to make sure he was still breathing because I was still haunted by his apnea spells in the NICU.

    Despite all of this atypical parenting and emotional struggle, my son amazed me in so many ways. He loved blowing juicy raspberries. Eventually, the down-cast appearance of his eyes (because of the pressure in his brain) improved and he would truly look at me - and smile. I watched him discovered the tiny actions, like hand regard, which are key to infant development.

    Torran’s MEDEK therapy, which I did with him for 45 minutes twice a day, helped him gain enough core strength that he maintained a sitting position for brief periods. He was so cute when he tumbled onto the protective cushion surrounding him.

    The weird lump on his head from brain surgery persisted. We couldn’t let Torran lie flat for long periods of time - the last time we did that, his shunt slipped out from his skull. My arms felt the strain of carrying my mini Sumo who couldn’t support his own body weight.

    We took special care to monitor the site for complications. As the days stretched away from the most recent surgery, his body began growing into his oversized head. A head which he loved hiding in a bucket.


    Torran had sunshine in the smiles which matured into giggles, and, after lots of auditory verbal therapy, into sounds. He wore hearing aids shortly after his first birthday, an event which my food-driven son celebrated by saying all three syllables of banana.

    A year after his premature birth, he refuted the doctor’s prognosis of a greater than 50% chance of paralysis from the bleeding in his head. Instead of sleeping at nap time, he pulled himself into a standing position.

    Facebook wasn’t a thing when we were first at home with Torran, and we felt very isolated. Our days focused on his healthy development, so it made sense to keep to ourselves until his little body could face the big, bad, germy world. We were told sickness could set him back, and we wouldn’t deny him his accomplishments. Having a premature child with increased medical needs made our family life more challenging, but no less worth living.

    This post is part of the #HealthyThisWinter Campaign sponsored by AbbVie Canada. The experience and comments listed above are my own.

  • Wednesday, November 16, 2016 10:20 PM | claire (Administrator)

    Caring for Preemies through Their First Winter: No Experience is the same.  Written by Carolyn Leighton-Hilborn

    When I had my first child at 31 weeks, I can honestly say I knew very little about prematurity or the common winter illnesses that can threaten a baby born early. He was somewhat atypical for a preemie because he was “bigger” and “healthier” than physicians would have normally expected and he did extremely well during his hospital stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Although he had weight and size going for him, he did experience respiratory distress in the early days. Overall though, he was what we call a “feeder and grower”, and he came home just shy of a month after his birthday.

    That first winter was uneventful and he had a very healthy first year. While I would like to say it is because of something I did, I did not do anything out of the ordinary to ward off illness. We did not live in lockdown as we sometimes do hear families are instructed to do during the winter months. Our paediatrician was consulted with each month and he closely monitored our son’s health, but he did not “prescribe” keeping our child indoors away from exposure to others.

    Fast forward to two winters later and I was now the mom of three little boys, including 27 weeker twins, who arrived in the spring. They each had the “rollercoaster” NICU stay. Their hospital stay was challenging and they faced several issues with their health– one of their greatest issues was ongoing respiratory distress. The fact they were born so prematurely and had immature lungs, put them at greater risk for contracting common winter illnesses, which healthy adults normally dismiss as a “little cough or cold”.

    My husband and I were now well-trained on good hand hygiene, the importance of cleaning our hands often, especially when holding our young babies.

    In December we hosted our regular holiday dinner. Twenty family members attended. In advance we asked people to avoid attending if they had any cold symptoms, no matter how minor. We explained how the twins still had immature immune systems and were much more susceptible to catching illnesses. When our guests arrived I reminded them of the importance of good hand hygiene – wash your hands in the washroom or use hand sanitizer stationed throughout the house – and avoided having the babies passed around from family member to family member. Things went smoothly and the babies remained healthy.

    But that winter was not illness free. I reflect back on a frightening experience that took place late winter while I was home with my three boys while my husband was at work. One of the twins had a terrible cold with a wet cough, clogged up with excess mucous, and a constant runny nose. He was one unhappy baby boy. While changing his diaper he started to turn blue after a fit of coughing. I did what I could to get him breathing properly while calling 911 and an ambulance arrived quickly. The EMTs were able to assess his vitals and agreed he should be seen at the emergency room. We arrived in the ER with what I call my “bible” in hand, describing each twins’ healthcare, conditions and appointments scheduled. I was like a walking, talking medical text book, rhyming off his history, his conditions and his recent illness, with ease. I received some looks of bewilderment as I provided the lengthy healthcare history for this tiny little boy. I was often asked if I was a nurse. I also received kind words and messages of congratulations for knowing this boy so well, and being the strong advocate he needs.

    This hospital experience was a reminder of how important my role as a parent is to this little boy and his brothers. It was also a great reminder that I cannot control everything, no matter how many precautions we take.

    As for the third little guy, the one who had the rockiest road, the loopiest rollercoaster ride through the NICU, he was the healthiest boy in the house that winter.

    This post is part of the #HealthyThisWinter Campaign sponsored by AbbVie Canada. The experience and comments listed above are my own.

  • Wednesday, November 16, 2016 10:03 PM | claire (Administrator)

    5 Tips for getting through the Cough, Cold and Illness Season this winter with a preemie

    A mother of three premature children, including twins, provides tips on getting through the first winter.  Written by Carolyn Leighton-Hilborn

     Nobody enjoys those first few moments you realize you have a new scratchy tickle in the back of your throat or the watery eyes that seem to be the first signs a cold is taking over your body. Imagine how it feels for a baby, especially a premature baby, who cannot explain how they are feeling, except through cries or physical signs they are unwell. Here is a list of several common winter illnesses and their symptoms.

    We are approaching the season of winter illnesses, which can have a greater impact on premature babies during their first year.

    As a mother of three prematurely born children, I can tell you no experience will be exactly the same during a baby’s first winter. My firstborn preemie made it through his first winter unscathed by illness, while two years later my twins had very different health experiences during their first winter. The one thing in common was that I handled each winter season the same way. Each baby received the same type of care and approach to avoiding illness wherever possible. Yet, we had three entirely different health experiences. In other words, as much as we might try to protect our children, there are no guarantees they will not get sick.

    What steps can you take to decrease the chance of your preemie catching an illness during the winter months?

    Here are 5 tips to help you prepare for the cough, cold and illness season:

    Make a policy Yes, I’m serious. Decide as a family how you will approach the common winter illness season. What are you comfortable with? Are you okay with taking your preemie out to the mall, baby play groups or visits with friends? What are the risks? What steps will you take to avoid illness whenever possible? Talk to your child’s doctor and ask for input on how to deal with this first winter season with your preemie. Discuss these concerns with your partner and other family members and create a policy, so to speak, on how you will strive to support your preemie’s healthcare needs.  It is important that your family is on the same page in order for you to feel confident these plans will be followed. Remember you are human and will likely need to tweak your ideals depending on the situation.

    A policy already in place will come in handy when you consider whether or not to have guests over during the holidays or for your baby’s first birthday.

    Good hand hygiene This is one of the most important steps to take to protect your entire family from winter illness. Do you wash your hands the right way and for the right amount of time? If you’re not sure, check out a quick tutorial on How do I wash my hands properly from the World Health Organization.

    Preemies often have many visitors coming into the home, from healthcare providers to family and friends. Consider keeping hand sanitizer pumps in various places in the home – in the family room, the kitchen, by the change table. Don’t be embarrassed to ask visitors to clean their hands when they enter the home and prior to holding your child.

    No ill visitors When making arrangements for people to visit you in your home, make sure to inform them they must be in good health to visit. Explain to your guests the importance of protecting your premature baby’s immune system, as common illnesses can be very problematic for preemies.

    Posts a sign at your front door, outlining your baby’s prematurity and ask visitors to come in only if they are well and do not have cold symptoms, no matter how minor.

    Avoid sharing items amongst siblings This tip is relevant to a parent who has a baby and a toddler or perhaps multiple births babies, who are likely to share items from time to time. If your children like to chew on and play with the same toys, remember to clean them or wipe them down between uses. Obviously you can’t control sharing at all times, however, it does help avoid exchanging saliva and germs between each child. 

    This post is part of the #HealthyThisWinter Campaign sponsored by AbbVie Canada.  The experience and comments listed above are my own.

  • Monday, November 07, 2016 11:03 PM | Sandy (Administrator)

    I love Adele. I may not always have a hard-on for her music the way some people do – absolutely nothing against her, however I can only take her tunes in short spurts before I feel like I should be drowning in my own melancholy sea of tears – but overall, I really appreciate her, and the rawness that she is as a performer, and her bluntness as a human being.


    I recently read the Vanity Fair cover article featuring Adele, which you can also read yourself here where she discussed her battle with Postpartum Depression.

    Like Adele, and along with thousands of other moms, I also felt a certain amount of pressure, the kind of pressure that told you it was a necessity to match and live up to the acceptable behaviours of what society's expectations were. The very purpose of me being born was eventually to have children, at least that’s what I was made to believe. Never mind that I was a feminist, and that I was an empowered woman with a very promising career in a predominantly male concentrated industry at the time. Yes, I was allowed to have all of that, but as long as I also pushed out at least a tiny human or two all the while accomplishing all the above.

    Do I regret having my 2 girls?

    Would you judge me harshly if I say “yes"?

    I can’t speak for others, but I can very much relate with what Adele went through. As someone who lives with chronic depression, and have been most of my life, I have become fairly in tune with my own daily struggles, but when postpartum was added on top of it, the struggles were extra tough. Even for a seasoned individual who recognized most of her own relapses, navigating through each postpartum day was tough enough for me to feel deep regret of the choice I made in having a child during that time.

    I had no problems discussing my "normal regular chronic depression" with anyone. Yet ironically, these daily regrets brought on by PPD wasn’t something I wanted to openly talk about in the beginning, because society has an expectation of us. 

    The amount of pressure we face as a female to being acceptable to society is already immense, add a newborn, and rapid fluctuating hormones, it makes new moms just that much more vulnerable.

    Yet, the part of our brain that feels the need to live up to “expectations” stays strong, so we hide it. We hide what we are feeling, we think there’s something wrong with us. According to the checklist of the perfect life, we’ve pretty much clicked off most of it, so what the fuck are we crying about it?

    Being a new mom for me was the very definition of juxtaposition. There was so much love for my baby, but I hated the life that I was living in.

    I don't regret having my 2 girls, but when you are drowning in PPD, you can definitely feel that way, every single damn day.

    I’m encouraged to see that Adele, along with few other prominent celebrities that have opened up about their PPD, is bringing attention to this subject matter. It also highlights the fact that there is still a huge need to continue to educate the masses and bring awareness and conversations on PPD wherever, whenever. Her PPD journey is our PPD journey too.

    Life With A Baby is the very resource that focuses on making this dialogue easy for everyone. There is no shame in how you feel as a new mother, because we are not perfect, and we shouldn’t be perfect.

    Let’s continue to make the topic of PPD more widespread, and into a common subject matter, the type of topic that gets acknowledged just like you would when you tell someone that you cut yourself, and you need medical attention. In order to do that, we encourage and welcome everyone to open up and share their motherhood journey, no matter how tough or easy the path is.


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