Monthly Archives

March 2015

newbie mom, working mom

my worst pumping experience at work

March 27, 2015

To this day, almost 16 months later, I am still bothered by this incident. I was newly back to the office and just felt so incredibly out of my element.

I was in one of our dressing rooms at work pumping prior to our Halloween party. I knew we’d be enjoying a few libations for the party and I wanted to partake. It was my first all agency social activity back from maternity leave and I was excited to catch-up with everyone.

If you’ve not had the pleasure of experiencing it, the act of pumping leaves you exposed no matter which way you slice it. I mean how can it not? You’re milking your damn self! So I was hanging in the dressing room, with my top pulled up, milking myself when there was a knock at the door…

The room was needed for a psychic/fortune teller for the party. I knew this and I knew when the party started. I purposely timed this activity. (I mean c’mon I’m a super organized planner by nature and trade… I knew what was up.)

The knock came again accompanied by the request to vacate for the not-yet-in-the-building psychic.

I said through the door ‘No problem, almost done. I will be out in a few minutes.’ A brief minute flew by and again… a knock…

Urgently was not a request but a voice telling me they need the room… NOW!

I literally finished-up in a rush (logistically, not easy) and hurried out the door flustered and fighting tears. I mean a psychic was going to use the room right? Couldn’t she see I needed more time? Not to mention that the psychic hadn’t even shown up yet!

I’m still steamed about the whole thing.

I just felt so exposed and like I had no place to go. It was truly the only time I felt this upon returning to work. It was likely compounded by my newness back to the office, to motherhood, to pumping and how quickly I’d returned to work from maternity leave. That said, it still felt awful. It’s one of those things that likely the person asking for the room, who no longer works at our agency, doesn’t realize how profoundly it affected me.

It may feel awkward to let people know you’ll be occupying a room for a period of time to pump, however I promise it’s far less awkward than negotiating through a door while you’re hooked up to a breast pump!

working mom

St. Patrick’s Day #momfail

March 17, 2015

St. Patrick’s Day is a huge day for the city of Cleveland. There are A LOT of Irish here. So celebrating St. Patrick’s Day is a thing. A BIG THING.

Though my heritage is not particularly Irish, I grew up in a household with a three-day stretch of celebration – my brother’s birthday, St. Pat’s and my birthday. It was glorious. Celebrating was fun. Definitely something I miss now that I’m a responsible adult in the real world. (Watching drunk people clad in green out your office window isn’t quite as exciting as partaking in the festivities.)

Last year, my little dude was 6 months. His very first St. Patrick’s Day. I prepared for the holiday in advance and got him a cute little onesie to dress him in for daycare to show his St. Paddy’s pride. Granted, the onesie may or may not have been for a girl… debatable… but at least it was themed so check it off the list. Done and done!

This year? Not so much. Two of the three of us left the house yesterday, the 16th, with green on. My husband had a green tie and little dude had a green thermal shirt. Today, the 17th, one of the three of us left the house in green. I have on green pants.

We literally didn’t have a thing to scrounge up for the little guy to wear this morning. Barely a stitch of clean laundry in his current size and none of it had a hint of green. Worse still is that we didn’t even have a save, like sticker or anything to throw on his shirt. (I made the parenting decision that an 18 month old is still too young to responsibly wear Mardi Gras beads, especially ones adorned with little green beer mugs). The closest we could have come, if we would have thought of it, was some green self adherent wrap tape from his hospital stay that we could have wrapped around his wrist as a bracelet. (He does love a good accessory). But no dice.

Sorry kid, you’re our only one (for now) and just 18 months old but we don’t have our act together enough to get you out the door in anything festive. We promise to do better next year.

#parentingfail

working mom

motherhood made me a better employee

March 12, 2015

Yes, you read that correctly. Motherhood has made me a better employee. Let me count the ways…

1. Prioritization

“Most things which are urgent are not important, and most things which are important are not urgent.” – Dwight Eisenhower*

As a newbie parent you learn quickly that a newborn baby crying is urgent and important. Always. However, if everything in my inbox is marked ‘high importance’ then nothing is high importance – it all needs to be re-prioritized. I was afforded a fresh look at prioritization in way of a reset upon my return from maternity leave. This view through a new lens allowed me to see quick and simple ways to outline my day. As a skill, prioritization is one best practiced daily. It’s critical to managing my day as effectively as possible, which leads me to…

2. Time Management

Time at home and with my new babe is precious. Anything I can do to maximize that time is of utmost importance. That means eliminating as much waste as possible in my day. Prioritization plays a major role. I strive to complete all my critical work within office hours. Obviously there are times when this is not always possible, however, I work hard to make that the exception and not the rule. This also helps those that I work with which, in the agency world, can be a lot of different people on a given day. By being mindful and effectively managing my own time I can provide them guidance and input when they need it and hopefully eliminate long or unnecessary hours.

3. Delegation

Preparing for maternity leave forces you to delegate some work that you may not otherwise. It’s a valuable exercise, especially as a leader. Sometimes we can get caught up in the ‘I’ll do it myself’ mentality which in the long run doesn’t help your growth as a leader or the growth of those that you’re managing. The exercise in delegation preparing for maternity leave afforded those on my team opportunities to take on more responsibility and forced me to take full stock of those responsibilities on my plate and evaluate who best to receive. Upon my return I continued to keep an eye toward those responsibilities I could delegate in order to ensure continued growth both for myself as well as those on my team.

4. Perspective

It’s easy in the agency business to get caught-up in the drama. The drama of clients, of co-workers, of deadlines, of unrealistic expectations, of it all. Becoming a mother lent another perspective in my life. It caused me to take a step back, re-evaluate and temper a response. I’m less knee-jerk reactive and more level-headed, especially in high anxiety situations.

Overall motherhood has spurred me to have more focus on my career and the direction it’s taking by truly evaluating what I want and the value I add. Going through the motions isn’t going to cut it. If I’m spending my time working, it has to be meaningful. I’m in it to win it.

 

-JLVR

*President Eisenhower created a method of prioritization that involves a four quadrant box with categories that range from Important/Urgent to Unimportant/Not Urgent. It’s a simple method to adopt if you’re struggling with prioritization.  

newbie mom

code V

March 4, 2015

I stopped and started this post about our trip to Children’s hospital a dozen times. I was honestly beyond nervous to write anything about what was happening since so much was unknown. We just didn’t have a clear picture of how everything would turn out. At worst it was terrifying and at best an underlying ever-present nagging thought. Luckily we’ve had a lot go our way thus far so we’re proceeding with tempered optimism. Some additional thoughts/observations regarding our stay…

Wasted worry.

“Worry is interest paid on trouble before it comes due. -William Ralph Inge

One of the most difficult parts about this whole ordeal was waiting from our initial blood work result to the retest. We actively tried not to get too caught-up in the thought of what could happen and instead work through what was happening. Focusing on what little was in our control. Sometimes and some days that was easier said than done.

“Whatever is going to happen will happen, whether we worry or not.” -Ana Monnar

Cry like a baby. 

Even though all the signs pointed to the news we received from the doctor that V’s platelet count had dropped to a dangerous level and that we needed to act now, it didn’t make it any easier to hear. Actually, that’s not entirely true, it was easier for me to hear than relay. As soon as I had to discuss what was happening I choked-up, it became real. It seemed unbelievable. I was shaken. So I cried. Sometimes you need a good cry – and that’s just what I did on the drive home from work. Just enough time to let it out and compose myself to get home and put a plan in action.

Our healthy looking sick baby.

Everyone kept saying  how healthy V looked. “He doesn’t even look sick!” I’m sure in some respects they were just trying to make us feel better about being in the hospital for the night but the truth was besides the rash and increased number of bruises he was the picture of health! The kid didn’t even have a runny nose! (And if you have or have had a kid in daycare you know that runny noses are standard winter fare). It made the experience all the more surreal.

Why did daycare cut him?

The first person we talked to once admitted to Children’s Hospital was a medical student. We relayed V’s recent history leading up to our visit. Noticed a rash, blood work indicated low platelets, second blood draw finger prick needed several bandage changes at daycare and didn’t stop bleeding until after noon, baby also came home with a huge bruise on his back that same day. I’m not sure what got lost in translation but he thought we told him that daycare ‘cut Danny’. He kept asking us and circling back to how Danny got ‘cut at daycare’. We kept trying to explain that they didn’t cut him they tended to his cut from the blood draw. He seemed very concerned that we weren’t more concerned!

Two is a crowd.

Before our nurse saved our marriage by finding us a recline-able chair – my husband and I attempted for a hot minute to share the twin hospital bed in V’s room. I was game for it, ready to cuddle-up and recreate our college twin bed sharing days. Him? Not so much.

Always a surprise. 

With this and with the birth of V, we were amazed at how little we actually saw the doctor. By happenstance we ran into him on the elevator after breakfast, he recognized us which was a great sign, but then we didn’t see him again until discharge. Never ceases to amaze me.

Thankful. 

Though we couldn’t know it going in, we were so lucky we had such a short stay at the hospital. There are other children and families that are dealing with a much different reality. We were reminded at every turn and that was not something lost on us.

Accepting the unknown. 

The doctors aren’t entirely sure what caused this to happen. It’s common not to have a specific thing to point to. Additionally, we’re not sure if V will need another treatment or if it’s a one and done scenario. For the majority of children they see with ITP, one treatment does the trick. A blip on the radar and nothing more to worry about. For others it takes longer but again can completely resolve. Hopefully we fall int the former category and our follow-up tests all show strong levels. For now things are looking good, his rash is gone and bruises healed. Other than a few middle of the night wake-ups V’s been doing great. We’re hopeful the trend continues!

 

newbie mom

our trip to children’s hospital

March 2, 2015

Last week our V was admitted to Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital to treat  Immune Thrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP) – a disorder that can lead to easy or excessive bruising and bleeding due to unusually low platelet levels. Though not an uncommon occurrence in children it was still a scary experience that luckily we came out on the right side of. Below are all of the details of our experience. We are so fortunate this has gone our way thus far and that we were able to have the flexibility in our work schedules to tackle this as a family.

Sunday Feb. 15th

  • Afternoon – Our little guy went down for a nap (not without a fight) and woke up with a rash on his face.
  • PM – We were giving DV a bath and noticed that he had quite a few bruises on his legs. He’s an active toddler so some bruises are common but he seemed to have a lot.

Monday Feb. 16th

  • AM – The curious rash on V’s face didn’t fade at all overnight so we looked a little more into it. The rash looked like he had been pricked by a bunch of pins which was unlike any other rash we’d seen on him to date. That said, we’re first time parents and he’s only been around for 17 months so there are a lot of firsts. We Googled the rash – it looked more like petechiae – and were met with potential diagnosis information that ranged from nothing to cancer. So we decided to make an appointment to be sure – joking that the doc would wave it off as nothing.

Tuesday Feb. 17th

  • AM – We chose to see DV’s pediatrician because he had an opening in the morning. My husband took V so that I could get to work because I had another appointment early afternoon. At first our pediatrician didn’t think much of the rash but by the end of the examination he’d requested that DV have blood work done. My husband said V did amazing with the blood draw – he didn’t even cry!
  • PM – That night we got a call form another physician in the practice with the results. Though all of V’s other counts looked good, his platelet count was at 25,000. It should be around 150-450,000.  We were told to bring him to the lab on Monday for another blood draw to recheck V’s levels. In the meantime we were told ‘Don’t throw him off any cliffs and you should be fine until Monday morning. If he develops a new major bruise before then bring him in earlier for a blood draw.’

Wednesday Feb. 18th-Sunday Feb. 22nd

  • We had a nerve-racking week and weekend as we waited for Monday morning to arrive and DV’s next blood draw. We inspected V’s body every night to ensure that he didn’t have any other spots of rash or bruises. It was a buzzing underlying worry that followed us through the week as we played the waiting game.

Sunday Feb. 22nd

  • PM – As we were doing our new routine bedtime inspection we noticed some more areas of rash on V’s bottom that hadn’t been there before – not a good sign.

Monday Feb. 23rd

  • AM – We woke up in the morning to fresh rash spots on DV’s face – not good. My husband took him to have his blood work done, they pricked his finger this time to take the sample. Shortly after lunch I received a call form my husband. Daycare let him know that V’s finger didn’t stop bleeding until midday and they had to change his bandage a few times – also not good.
  • Afternoon – I received a call from our pediatrician around 4PM. DV’s blood work had come back and his count was at 7,000 – anything below 10,000 you’re at risk of internal bleeding – we needed to pick V up from daycare and take him to Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital Hematology/Oncology department. They were expecting us. We should pack a bag and plan to spend a few nights.

    • I was in a meeting with one of my direct reports working on our first client agency summit presentation for Thursday when I took the call. I held it together to listen to the instructions from the pediatrician and take notes but as soon as I had to relay to her what was happening I broke down. This wasn’t a complete surprise, we had quite a few signs that cropped up that morning pointing to this outcome but it doesn’t make it any easier to hear.
    • I called my husband, gathered my things, shot an email to my team to let them know why I was leaving because I couldn’t tell them without crying and walked out the door.
    • When I arrived home my husband let me know that V had come home with another bruise on his back, he said it was pretty ugly and that I may not want to look at it. I did. It was. I almost wished I didn’t.
  • PM – We arrived early evening and went through admissions. We were set-up in a room and awaited visits from the medical staff. V loved being examined by everyone. He was a complete chatter box. I think he secretly delighted in being up hours past his typical bedtime.

Diagnosis – Immune Thrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP), an unexplained destruction of his platelets by antibodies produced by his own immune system.

Treatment – IV steroids and immune globulin (IVIG)

  • Late PM – At 10:30PM they put an IV line in V’s foot (because he’s a hand kid – sucks his fingers, holds his ear for comfort – they decided foot was best for the IV). Dad held him, he cried, I tried not to pass-out. After that he was both hooked up to a bag of steroids and dosed up with some Tylenol and Benadryl he was understandably exhausted and fell right to sleep. We put him in the crib and covered him with a blanket from home.
    • The nurse, who was amazing, began the IVIG around midnight. To do this she had to constantly monitor his vitals. While V was sleeping she adeptly attached 4 stickers to his chest and belly, a cuff on his leg and pulse ox on his foot so that she could run tests without waking him.
    • He woke up a few times, once at 2:30AM and once at 5:30AM and he was able to get right back to sleep (after a little snuggle in his Dad’s shoulder). He was done with all the IV’s after 5:30AM and we all slept until the nurse shift change at 7:15AM.

 

Tuesday Feb. 24th

  • AM – We threw a sock over V’s IV port and took him down to the cafeteria for breakfast where he ate approximate 2/3 of a pound of pineapple and strawberries as well as some Chex cereal. He LOVED hanging out down there and seeing all of the people. When we got back to our room breakfast had arrived – he proceeded to drink milk and eat waffle sticks. Clearly he had not lost his appetite!
    • After breakfast our friend, who is a dietitian at the Clinic, dropped by between her meetings to say ‘hi’. V loves visitors so he quickly cuddled up in her arms after playing in his crib with a few balls we brought from home.
    • After our visit, I took DV down to the 3rd floor to look at the fishes in the aquarium. We also checked out the playroom which was awesome. He loved getting out and about. I’m so thankful that he had the IV’s overnight because I’m not sure how we would have kept him still!
    • We had a blood draw late morning to check V’s platelet levels which lead to a midday snooze for the little guy.
  • PM – After lunch the nurse let us know that V’s platelet count had rebounded to 31,000. With this positive response to IVIG and the stable platelet count we received great news from our doctor – we were being discharged!

Wednesday Feb. 25th

  • My husband and I arranged our workday so that we could stay home with V rather than sending him to daycare. I took the morning shift and he took the afternoon so I could head to work and practice my presentation for the next day.

Thursday Feb. 26th

  • AM – My husband took V back to Cleveland Clinic Children’s for a blood draw and immediate results. V’s platelet count had rebounded to 160,000. I was half way through the morning session of my day-long client meeting when I got the good news via text. (Thankfully the morning session was held in a large auditorium and I could stealthy yet obsessively check my phone!)

The Game Plan

We’re not completely in the clear but things are looking great so far. We have to follow-up one time per week for the next three weeks with blood work, fortunately we can have V’s blood drawn at the medical center down the street from where we live.

If everything keeps looking good for the three weeks we will meet with the Hematologist again at Children’s to determine the schedule of blood draws for the next few months.

What I Learned

  • My husband and I did well in a crisis situation. We calmly put a plan in motion and did what needed to be done. We worked well together as a team facing the unknown.
  • I already knew he was an amazing Dad but he truly cemented his status. V is a Daddy’s boy right now and definitely needed him for comfort. He was calm, collected and extremely attentive to his little boy.
  • We’re beyond fortunate for our health, and that of our little guy.