5 Tips for Getting Pregnant After 35

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

Whether you planned on waiting or it just happened this way, the decision to get pregnant after 35 can be a difficult one. It’s no secret you could be facing an uphill battle, but the advantages are undeniable as well. Chances are you are better educated and more financially stable then you were in your younger years. Let that be a comfort, and use these five tips to strengthen your case:

A Great Support System

getting pregnant after 35Besides supportive friends and family, there’s one thing that’s pretty important when you are preparing to have a baby: a great doctor. I don’t mean someone who is just good at what he or she does. In order to increase your chances and make the experience worthwhile, you need someone who is available if you have an urgent concern; someone who is a good listener and attentive to your worries; someone who is knowledgeable and encouraging. You may be more likely to prematurely stop treatments if you don’t have a decent relationship with your physician. If your doctor makes you feel stupid for asking questions, is unreachable or regularly forgets important details about your special circumstances, dump him or her and find someone better.

Know the Facts

A healthy, fertile 30-year-old woman has a 20 percent chance of getting pregnant each month, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. That number drops to five percent when she reaches age 40. So somewhere in between, at age 35, you have anywhere from a 10 to 15 percent chance of conceiving during each monthly cycle. Knowing the facts means you are aware you may have a longer journey than most, but you are prepared to stick to it until the odds are in your favor. Couples in their 30s are advised to seek help after six months of trying on their own. According to ReproductiveFacts.org, in about 40 percent of infertile couples, the male partner is either the sole cause or a contributing cause of infertility.

Get It Right

The ideal time to conceive, also known as the “fertile window,” is the six days leading up to and ending on ovulation, according to ReproductiveFacts.org. Because of this, you should keep a record of your menstrual cycle to best time sexual encounters around ovulation. An ovulation calculator can help you with this. According to the Mayo Clinic, sperm can live in a woman’s body for three to five days. That means as long as you are having sex every other day, your chances are just as high as if you were having sex everyday or multiple times a day.

Handle Health Issues

Lurking, undetected health issues could be preventing you from conceiving before you even get started. For example, some sexually transmitted diseases can cause pelvic infections and lead to infertility by damaging fallopian tubes, according to ASRM.org. Get a check up from all your doctors, including your dentist, optometrist and regular family practitioner.

Re-Think Your Routine

Talk to your doctor about behaviors that could affect your chances of conceiving. Smoking, drinking, stress, exercise and sleep should be included in the discussion. According to ASRM.org, moderate exercise may help normal-weight women get pregnant faster, while excessive exercise can delay pregnancy for all but the overweight or obese.

Throwing a Baby Shower? Simple & Inexpensive Menu Ideas

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

Throwing a fantastic baby shower can quickly get expensive if you’re not careful. Don’t trick yourself into thinking that the event is all about how much you spend on it. It’s all about celebrating your friends and family and, of course, the baby on the way. If you want to throw a great shower that everyone can enjoy— and won’t break the bank— try hosting an afternoon fete. Your food service can be limited to scrumptious snacks instead of serving a meal and you can eschew alcohol. Since the mom-to-be can’t drink, it makes sense to keep the party dry.

baby shower ideasIf your focus is on the mom-to-be (as it should be), consider that the later she is in her pregnancy, the more uncomfortable she might be. Hosting an afternoon party, starting between 1 and 3 p.m., will keep the festivities from lasting too long. The last thing you want to do is make a party feel more like an obligation. Start by planning games and favors. You can get great deals on Party Pail baby shower favors and have them chosen and delivered well in advance of the party. Postcards can make adorable invitations and are cheaper both to buy and to mail. Mockup a menu and check with the lady of honor. Be sure she’s not sensitive to certain smells or foods before you include them. You don’t have to publish the menu, but you do need to indicate what guests can expect.

For an afternoon party, you have a great freedom of choice when it comes to refreshments. Light hors d’oeuvres, delicious desserts and refreshing mock-tails are perfect (and inexpensive) options that are sure to please even the toughest critics. If you don’t have fine china serving ware, ask around. Plenty of your friends or family are sure to have upscale service items that they rarely use and will likely loan to you. Beautiful presentation can make the most frugal spread feel luxurious, and it only costs you a little bit of time and ingenuity.

For some inexpensive menu items that will look good, be easy to prepare, easy to eat and taste great look no further. Here’s a few of our favorites:

Beverages

Hot tea, either brewed by the pot or an offering of tea bags, is both frugal and fancy. Be sure to have a low caffeine or no caffeine option ready for the lady of honor and any other pregnant or nursing guests.

Be sure to have water on hand as well. A great way to add some flair is to infuse water with some cut fruit. Citrus fruits work especially well and make for a beautiful presentation and great taste.

Mock-tails, like this Berry Spritzer, are fun, delicious and refreshing. Who needs wine when you’re sipping on something so delicious?

Food

Be sure to choose food items that can be made at least a few hours, if not a day or two, in advance. If you’re not tremendously confident in the kitchen, you’ll want to limit yourself to one complicated recipe at most. Be sure you give yourself plenty of time to prepare items and don’t try to juggle making too many dishes at once! If you’re attempting anything ambitious, have a backup plan. Hopefully you won’t need it, but if you do, you’ll still have a successful party on your hands.

Apple crisps or tarts are great and simple treats that you can make year-round. Shortbread cookies pair well with hot beverages. You can also dip them in chocolate to make something store-bought seem homemade. Fruits and vegetable trays are simple and inexpensive— especially when you prepare them yourself. If strawberries are in season, try making these fabulous cream filled strawberries from the Joy of Baking. They’re simple and show stopping.

Have you hosted a baby shower on a budget recently? What dishes worked for you? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Unique Baby Shower Gift Ideas

MomsGetReal Guest Contributor Ara Muffins

As women, most of us have been to at least one baby shower in our lifetimes. Whether it was ours or someone else’s, we’ve all experienced watching gifts opened that looked remarkably similar. Even if the mom-to-be registers at a store, there are only so many different bottles and onesies that you can buy. If you’re looking for a gift idea that will be truly unique, here are five of them:

1.Printed Shirts

If you’re looking for a unique gift that is sure to elicit a few giggles, design matching shirts for mom and baby. You can personalize t-shirts, hoodies and even onesies. Come up with a creative design or choose one that has already been used, the choice is up to you. You can make the t-shirts match exactly or come up with a mom and baby theme. No matter what you choose to do, your gift will be unlike any others at the shower.

2.Second Diaper Bag

Every mom needs two or three diaper bags, but most moms put a great bag on their gift registry and leave it at that. Instead of putting together mom’s main bag, buy a second, smaller bag and pack it full of goodies. Mom can leave this bag in the car or take it to Grandma’s house. Pack the bag with a handful of diapers, a pacifier, a teething ring, a small package of wipes, a onesie or two, a container of cheerios; get creative! Having an extra diaper bag or two means that mom doesn’t have to lug her main diaper bag with her every time she leaves the house. Try to remember that Dad will be lugging a diaper bag from time-to-time as well; choose a gender neutral bag for the parents-to-be.

3.Seasonal Basket

Put together a seasonal gift basket for the new baby. Whether it’s baby’s first summer or baby’s first winter, grab all of the things that mom might need for her little one. If you put together a summer gift basket, add a bottle of sunscreen, bug repellant, a hooded towel and even a floatie for the pool. If you put together a winter basket, add a knit hat, a pair of mittens, a wearable blanket, some lotion and a tube of baby-safe lip balm. You may have difficulty locating items in the store if the season is more than a couple of months away, but you can always find the items you are looking for online.

4.Books

Most people give Mom a card with her gift. Skip the card and get more creative; give a book instead. You can write a lovely message on the inside cover of the book you choose and, instead of being thrown away, Mom will be able to read the book to her baby for years to come. If you love to read, share your passion with the new baby and put together a gift bag full of children’s books. Studies have shown that children entering school who were read to three to four times a week were 26 percent more likely to recognize the letters of the alphabet and have more educational success. This means that books are truly the gifts that keep giving. You can easily find age-appropriate books in the store or online; put a dozen or so in a cloth tote for a beautiful, useable gift that Mom will appreciate.

5.Storage

Give Mom the gift of storage! All new moms quickly realize how fast toys, clothes and other baby items pile up and, if storage space in the home is at a minimum, the baby’s room can quickly be taken over by “stuff”. Look for a beautiful toy box, a closet organization system or even several space bags that will lend ample storage for all of the new baby’s belongings. You may be surprised at just how appreciative Mom will be with this thoughtful gift.

While there’s nothing wrong with receiving blankets and onesies, the new baby can only use these items for so long. It’s far better to choose a gift that will be used for many months after the baby is born. Use these ideas or use them to come up with ideas of your own; not only will your gift be completely unique, but it will be appreciated more than you know.

Ara Muffins is an avid blogger who writes often for clothing sites. You can follow her on Twitter @aramuffins.

Classic Music for Prenatal Development?

Getting Real With +Shadra Bruce, Owner of +MomsGetReal

I’ve written before that I believe there are far more important things you should be doing for the health of your fetus than reading to it or playing it music, but if you do want to do more, consider this: By the time you have been pregnant for five months, your baby’s brain development, the number of brain cells your baby will have, is already determined.  By this twentieth week of pregnancy, your baby’s brain will have entered into a period of rapid growth and maturity.  The brain cells begin to mature, and the brain itself becomes more complex.  Most likely, by this stage of development, your child can see and hear throughout much of the second half of the pregnancy, and before that time can sense emotion, vibration, and sound.

The research is inconclusive at best, but because so much of your baby’s brain development takes place before birth, some medical professionals believe it is important to begin providing stimulation and building a connection with your baby even before he or she is born, and suggest that one of the best ways you can provide this stimulation to your unborn child is by playing classical music. According to some researchers, playing classical music to the baby provides a number of prenatal benefits. Classical music is at once calming and lyrical, but the volume of the music should be kept under 100 decibels (40-60 decibels is typically loud enough).

The prenatal benefits of playing classical music to your unborn child are still being studied, and quite honestly, I think it worked more as a marketing ploy to sell baby cds and associated products than anything else.  I do believe playing classical music can have a calming effect – on mom. I would suggest playing it when you are feeling stressed, perhaps even including it in your delivery room when you go into labor to make the experience less stressful.

Pregnant? It’s Time to Start Preparing Your Baby for School

Getting Real With +Shadra Bruce, Owner of +MomsGetReal

If you are pregnant and not yet preparing your child for school, you may be too late. You may not be able to detect the sarcasm, but the fact is, more and more “experts” and parenting gurus are suggesting that if your fetus hasn’t achieved a kindergarten reading level prior to making his or her entrance to the world, you’re doomed.

Give me a break.

Don’t get me wrong – I do think parents should play an active role in their children’s academic efforts…but I also think that when you’re pregnant, if you’re not reading to your infant or playing Mozart to your belly your baby will still be ok if you’re not smoking but you are taking prenatal vitamins. In fact, I think the best things pregnant moms can do is take care of themselves! The healthier you are while you are pregnant, the better chance your baby has of being healthy too. Eating right, exercising, and managing your stress is critical.

Yes, all the studies show that playing classical music and reading to your baby in the womb ensure better academic success, but if we see beyond the study to the type of parent capable of doing this (one who is financially prepared for baby, has time to sit and relax and read) that it probably has less to do with what you’re reading and listening to and more to do with the environmental factors that allow that kind of prep to happen in the first place.

You know what I think kids need, from the time they are conceived until the day they die? Parents who love them unconditionally, accept them for who they are, and teach them to be critical thinkers while trusting them to take risks and grow and learn.

Take care of you when you’re pregnant, and when the baby is born, skip all the mumbo-jumbo and just love him or her. Every day, all the time.

Read to your baby; play music if you want..but realize that it is the human interaction and the nurturing that helps foster the successful development of your child.

Making Your Home a Safe Place for Little Wanderers

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

You didn’t skip pre-natal vitamins or visits with your OB. Your car seat has been inspected to make sure it was installed properly. Now, make sure your house is ready for the new baby.

Bringing a baby home for the first time is a joyous occasion, but the time to start preparing your house for the new arrival begins months before the event. Some quick and easy ways to baby-proof your house are to make sure appliance cords and window blind cords are far out of reach and to move furniture away from windows. Never open windows more than four inches with a small child in the house, and if you have a staircase, a baby gate is a must.

Here are 6 more safety tips every parent should know:

1.  You can sign up to receive regular email updates from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) about recalled products and warnings. Register for those e-mails at www.cpsc.gov/cpsclist.aspx or visit  http://www.recalls.gov/ to obtain information about specific items.

2. In the mid-90s, the National Institute of Child Health & Human Development launched the “Back to Sleep” campaign to encourage parents of newborns to lay their infants on their backs to sleep. That effort has helped reduce SIDS deaths more than 50 percent. When it comes to cribs, skip pillows, blankets and bumper pads. They may seem like they will make your baby more comfortable, but these items can cause suffocation. Dress your baby in a blanket sleeper and lay her in an empty crib on her back.

3. You can’t eradicate all the unsafe items from your home, but you can put locks on doors that go to offices, storage closes, and the garage to prevent little ones from wandering into unsafe areas. And make sure that if you have guns, you practice good gun safety habits, keeping guns locked up with ammunition is kept in a separate location to prevent tragic accidents.

4. Choose a paint with a low VOC (volatile organic compound) for the nursery. It’s better for your baby’s breathing. Be sure all heavy bookshelves and bookcases throughout the home are bolted securely to the walls.

5. Never, ever leave your child unattended in the tub for even a second. Don’t even text, talk on the phone, or get distracted for any reason. Ignore distractions like ringing telephones and doorbells. Bring everything you will need to bathe the baby into the bathroom with you, and if something happens where you must leave, wrap your baby in a towel and take him or her with you.

6. Discard as many household cleaners and chemicals as you can live without. Even makeup and other beauty products can be poisonous to your baby. Switch to all natural cleaning and beauty products.

Before bringing baby home, get down on your hands and knees and view your home from infant eye level. You’ll be surprised at the change of perspective.

 

Benefits of Sign Language for Babies

Getting Real With +Shadra Bruce, Owner of +MomsGetReal

Can you imagine the frustration of having so much to say and no way to express your needs? Infants are no different from adults in that respect; they are capable of clearly communicating their needs and wants, but the only form of communication available to them is crying. Parents learn to differentiate the cries of their infants, wouldn’t it be wonderful if infants could communicate their needs more clearly?

Teaching your infant basic sign language can provide a communication outlet before verbal communication is possible.

The benefits of your baby knowing sign language goes beyond giving them the ability to tell you they are thirsty; sign can help babies tell their parents when they have a tummy ache, want their blanket, or want to wear the red shirt not the green one. Sign language can help your baby develop vocabulary, increases spatial skills and eye-hand coordination, and reduce frustration (for both of you). It may also increase your baby’s literacy, IQ, cognitive ability, and self-esteem.  For any parent whose heartstrings have been tugged by an inconsolable baby who can’t express what he or she needs, sign language may help.

American Sign Language (ASL) is a recognized language.  Even if you don’t know ASL, you can learn a few simple signs to teach to your baby and then continue learning right along with your child.  Before an infant is six months old, he or she is capable of understanding the concept that certain gestures symbolize certain things.  You can begin to use basic signs with your baby from the moment they are born, signing words like “milk” or “bottle” when they eat, or “potty” when you change a diaper so that the gestures are familiar to them from the start.   If your child is older, it is not too late for the benefits of sign language to have an impact.

Over time, your infant’s signing vocabulary can grow rapidly. You can even incorporate signing with reading time, teaching your infant the signs for the objects in the picture books you read together.  There are many online resources for learning sign so that you can learn what you need to know to share with baby.  Thanks to the benefits of sign language for babies, before your infant is even capable of producing all the phonemes necessary for oral speech, he or she may be communicating with you better than infants twice as old.

5 Things You Should Never Say to a Preemie Parent

Getting Real With Wanda Morrissey

Having a child in the hospital is never easy.  It puts a lot of stress on the parents and family as a whole.  Often extended family and friends are at a loss as to what to do or say during times like that.  In an effort to be helpful or encouraging, they may unintentionally say the wrong thing.  In honor of November being Preemie Awareness Month, I’ve put together a list of the Top 5 things to never say to a preemie parent and the Top 5 things to say.

Never Say:

1. “It must be nice to be able to relax and catch up on your sleep while your baby is in the hospital.”  There is nothing ‘nice’ about having your baby in the hospital fighting for its life.  It’s hard to rest and sleep when you spend hours at the hospital or traveling back and forth between the hospital, lay awake at night worrying or panicking every time the phone rings.  You wouldn’t say that to a parent if their child were in the Paediatric Cancer Ward so why would you say it to a parent whose child was in the NICU?

2. “Don’t worry so much.  People have preemies all the time and they’re just fine.”  Yes, people do have preemies all the time, 1 in 8 births is premature.  But, no, not all are ‘just fine’.  There are hundreds of things that can go wrong; from minor developmental delays, to severe disabilities to death.

3. “Why isn’t your baby crawling yet?  So and So’s baby is the same age and she’s crawling already.”   I know it’s natural for parents to compare and brag about their babies milestones but preemies aren’t like other babies.  Preemies need time to catch up, they will catch up but they do need extra time.  A preemie’s milestones are measured from their due date not their birth date.  So, if a baby was born two months early they’ll be about two months behind their peers in development.

4. “You were so lucky not to have to go through the last months of pregnancy.”   What’s lucky about having a baby in the NICU?  What’s lucky about having a child hooked up to monitors and wires, fighting for it’s life?  What’s lucky about having to leave your baby in a hospital while you go home?  And there are a lot preemie moms who get depressed because they feel they were cheated (for lack of a better word) out of the whole pregnancy experience.

5. “What did you do to cause your baby to be born premature?”  The cause for premature birth, in the majority of cases, is unknown. Some known causes are twin (or multiples) pregnancy, incompetent cervix (cervix dilates too soon) or PROM (premature rupture of membranes) with PROM being the most common cause.  Doctors may decide to deliver a baby early in cases of IUGR (intrauterine growth restricted), placenta praevia (placenta has attached to close to cervix) or pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure and protein in the urine).  None of these are the fault of the mother and there is nothing that she could have done to prevent them.  Drug and alcohol addiction have been known to play a part in premature birth but less than 1% of preemies are born early for this reason.

All those things were said to me, some of them more than once.

Do Say:

1. “Congratulations.”   Congratulating someone on having a child that’s going to be in the hospital for an extended period of may sound odd and same may feel awkward doing so.  Think of it more as injecting some normal into a situation that isn’t, as an acknowledgement that they are now parents.

2. “Your baby is beautiful.”  Seeing a preemie for the first time can be scary and heartbreaking.  They’re tiny, hooked up to monitors with wires going everywhere.  Looking past all that and seeing the precious baby lying there will make a preemie parent’s day.

3. “Do you need a ride to the hospital?”  If you say it, follow through.  A lot of the time, a preemie will be in a hospital that’s in another town/city.  It mightn’t be easy for the parents, especially if one has to work, to get back and forth.  Gas and parking costs can add an extra strain to an already stressful situation.  Some mothers, after a c-section, aren’t allowed to travel on their own for a period of time.  A ride to see their baby will always be appreciated.

4. “Is there anything I can do to help?”  Even if they say ‘no’, they’ll be grateful for a meal that they don’t have to make at 10pm after a long day in the NICU.  You can always make a meal that they can freeze and then heat up when needed or give them a gift certificate to a local restaurant.  If there are older children, offer to baby sit.  Offer to walk the dog or help with laundry.  Even little things can help alleviate some of the stress preemie parents are feeling.

5. “Do you want to talk about it?”  Talking is great.  Talking gives people the chance to express how they are feeling and sort out the emotions.  Explaining to someone else about what’s happening can help the parents to better understand it themselves.   It gives the parents a chance to vent and cry.  Having someone to listen and a shoulder to cry on is invaluable.

I wish someone had said more of these things to me.

NanoWrimo? NoShavember? No…November is for Preemies!

MomsGetReal™.com is taking a break from the Stress Less Holiday Event to discuss something that makes the holidays worthwhile: our babies. November is Preemie Awareness Month, and the March of Dimes is making extraordinary efforts to reduce preemie births, provide education and support to families, and to save the lives of children. Our own Mama Posse founding member Wanda Morrissey, is an experienced preemie mom who shared her story with us last year.

November is Preemie Awareness Month with the 17th being dedicated to raising awareness. According to the March of Dimes, one in eight babies born in the United States is premature. The rate of premature birth in America is higher than that of most other developed nations.

Most concerning is that the preemie birth rate in the U.S. has actually risen in the last quarter century by more than 30%. Babies born too soon face huge health challenges, first to survive, then throughout life. It is the primary cause of death in infants.

In 2003, the March of Dimes launched the Prematurity Campaign, which grows each year. The March of Dimes funds research and supports and recommends legislation that can make a difference. This year, the March of Dimes launched the Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait® program to help prevent preterm birth. Their goal is to help expecting moms wait at least 39 weeks to give birth.

Prematurity Awareness Month kicked off November 1 with the release of the 2011 Premature Birth Report Card and November 17 will be World Prematurity Day.

You can make a difference!! Donate money to support families and NICUs, join a March of Dimes fundraising team, or volunteer your time to help.

Resources for Parents

www.marchofdimes.com

www.preemieparenting.com

www.preemiecare.org

www.zerotothree.org

These are some of the more well known web sites.  Typing preemie into a search engine will bring up others.  Support staff at your hospital will also be able to provide you with a list of resources

Leaving Baby and Going Back to Work with a Broken Heart

Guest Contributor Janell Bischoff

My daughter has slept with me every single night since she was born, either on the sofa or in my bed with me. It isn’t easy, but the sting of not having her is still faint in my mind. I love every single second of her. I’m holding her in one way or another about twenty hours every day. She is like an extension of me.  She gets gassy so I have completely changed the way I eat for her. I have molded my life to help hers go more smoothly.

A few weeks ago I got the strongest prompting of my life that I needed to go back to work. My husband’s job does not provide insurance but mine does, and in our day and age, you have to have insurance or else you are kind of asking for something big, bad and ugly to happen. After a huge resistance from my job trying to convince me to not come back, I was able to return.

The first day I was going to return to work I was a wreck. I cried hysterically all day long, all week for that point. It felt like my whole life would end. How could I leave my perfect daughter, even if I would be leaving her with her father? I had been collecting my milk for weeks before hand because I did not want her to have formula for as long as possible. As it got closer to my return to work, I would look at my daughter and just cry thinking about being away from her.

Before I left, I fed her and held her as long as I could. My heart broke when I walked out the door, even though she was content in her swing. I got in my car crying with a headache, so upset I literally thought I was going to throw up. I somehow composed myself and was able to walk into work without having tear falling down my face. Within 30 seconds of being clocked in I was asked, “So, do you miss your baby?” I lost it, completely. They sent me away to compose myself and with the sensitivity of a rock, told me  when I came back in, “Well you knew you had to leave her sometime.”

It has helped my husband better understand how hard it is to care for our beautiful child. He has told me repeatedly over and over again that he has so such more respect for me and for what I do with her. He says it has caused him to love her even more caring for her.

I have discovered that working isn’t very friendly for new moms.  I have also discovered that you have to fight extremely hard to get what you want.  I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to leaving my baby.