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Playground parenting and other issues


I made an observation at the playground when my son was very young. Namely, parents seem to hover.

The problem with this is that it seems to me that kids aren’t allowed to learn a very basic life skill at the playground: Conflict resolution. If two kids have a beef at the monkey bars, there’s always a parent or two coming in to mediate or, more likely, to separate the kids and force them to play at opposite ends of the playground.

That’s kind of the type of thing that Lenore Skenazy has been talking about for a while now.

Skenazy is a Big Apple colunmist and blogger who made waves in 2007 by letting her then-9-year-old son take the subway and bus home on his own. She peddled the experience into a book, Free Range Kids, and a blog by the same title.

“Amid the cacophony of terrifying Amber Alerts and safety tips for every holiday,” Salon.com said in its review, “Skenazy is a chipper alternative, arguing that raising children in the United States now isn’t more dangerous than it was when today’s generation of parents were young. And back then, it was reasonably safe, too. So why does shooing the kids outside and telling them to have fun and be home by dark seem irresponsible to so many middle-class parents today?”

We’ve taken up similar issues here in the past. Admittedly, I’ve tended to err on the side of smothering my own son, relying more on that gene that says I should protect him. And, personally, I would not have let my 9-year-old ride the subway home alone.

But that’s just me, and I am likely very much guilty of the type of over-parenting Skenazy warns about.

Nonetheless, there is a lesson in it all, regardless of your personal feelings on it: Sometimes you do have to let the reins loose a bit.

Perhaps it is a matter of degrees. And I at least give myself credit for letting him work out his playground scuffles.

Follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/jfitzgibbon

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Thursday, June 11th, 2009 at 12:59 pm |
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Cool T-shirts for Father’s Day


I love Junk Food T-shirts. They are fun and hip without being too edgy. That makes them perfect for Father’s Day for guys who are more comfortable in jeans and a T-shirt than a dress shirt and tie. (And, let’s face it, a 40-year-old man in an Affliction T-shirt is just kind of sad.)

For the wives out there shopping, <a href=”http://www.junkfoodclothing.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/Category4_10052_10051_-1_10551_Y_10551″ target=”_blank”>Junk Food</a> T’s allow you to indulge your husband’s love for “Star Trek,” “Batman” or the Beatles while also giving him a shirt that will make him cool to your teenagers. My pick for dads of little ones has one of the Wild Things from “Where the Wild Things Are.” There is also a shirt with the “Cat in the Hat” that’s cute for dads of toddlers in particular. Some even have a double entendre that’s appropriate for the wife to bestow, like the one with the Lucky Charms leprechaun and the phrase “Magically Delicious.”

A couple of years ago, I gave Pumpkin’s father a shirt that said, “Property of My Little Girl” that I loved to see him wear. (Hint.)

I have to admit: I keep buying Father’s Day stuff that’s the analog of what I’d like to receive on Mother’s Day. Pumpkin has at least two T-shirts that say “Daddy’s Girl,” but none that say anything about mommy. Hmm.

So, dads out there: Would these shirts be a fun gift for you? What do you really crave on your big day?

Posted by Julie Moran Alterio on Friday, June 5th, 2009 at 7:08 pm |

Exploiting parents’ worst fear


Worry. This is a catch-all word for emotions that can range from mild to heart-pounding, depending on whether your child is merely testing her skills on the playground or pulling out of your hand to run toward traffic.

I’m what an earlier generation liked to call a “worrywart.” I worry about almost everything, but usually succeed in communicating none of that worry to my child. I encourage her to try new things, while taking appropriate care against hazards of course.

Probably most parents are worrywarts to some extent, which is why marketers are so effective at getting us to spend a fortune baby-proofing our homes and buying safety devices.

In my in-box today was a promo for a product called the <a href=”http://www.snuza.com/pages/en/home.php” target=”_blank”>Snuza</a>. It’s a baby monitor that clips to your infant’s diaper and monitors movement. If the device doesn’t sense a movement in 15 seconds, it stimulates the baby with a “pulsed vibration.” If no movement is sensed after another 5 seconds, an alarm goes off. On the Web site’s frequently-asked-questions page, the maker acknowledges this is not a medical device but is more akin to the heart monitors people wear while they exercise.

As I read all this over, I found myself getting angry at this company for exploiting parents’ fear of sudden infant death syndrome to sell a lifestyle gadget.

You see, my daughter, as readers of this blog know, was a preemie. When she was in the hospital for more than two months, she was hooked up to an actual medical monitor. Learning to interpret the sounds it made took a while. At first, I was worried every time it went off, but the nurses assured me that those weren’t the beeps to be concerned about. Then, one day, I was holding her when it went off with a new sound. Assuming it was one of those unimportant beeps, I ignored it. That was until a nurse quickly came up and started vigorously rubbing my baby’s back to remind her to breath. That wasn’t the only time I had that experience. I, too, learned to rub her back when the monitor went off a certain way.

Then, one day, it was time to take her home, to take her off the monitor where I could watch how fast her heart was beating, how many breaths she took a minute and how much oxygen was in her blood.

It was leap of faith. Faith in the doctors that they wouldn’t send her home before she was ready. Faith that she would be OK. And faith that I would at last get to be her mom in our own home.

I buried my worries and embraced a normal family life. If my daughter had needed a monitor, then the doctors would have sent her home with one. (As, indeed, they did for some preemies.)

What if I had given in to my darker fears and bought a contraption like the Snuza? It’s not a medical device, as the maker clearly states. If your child needed a monitor, wouldn’t you want a medical device that could actually save her life? So who is it for? The parents. To feed their worry. The Web site proclaims: “How did we cope before Snuza? It’s been a great relief to finally get a good night’s sleep.”

What kind of goodnight ritual is it when you attach a monitor to your baby’s diaper? Isn’t that saying, in effect, I don’t trust you to live until morning without this thing? Every new parent has this fear, and every new parent gets over it — except those who are reminded of it daily when they buy products like the Snuza, that is.

I am not minimizing the risk of SIDS. I can easily imagine the agony. But the American SIDS Institute does NOT list devices like the Snuza in its <a href=”http://www.sids.org/nprevent.htm” target=”_blank”>advice for parents</a>, which includes placing infants on their backs to sleep without any soft coverings that can suffocate. New research also shows that having a <a href=”http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2008-10-06-SIDS-fans_N.htm” target=”_blank”>fan in the room</a> can also lesson the risk of SIDS.

What do you think about devices like the Snuza? More harm than help or a useful addition to the nursery?

Posted by Julie Moran Alterio on Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009 at 2:01 pm |


Nine questions to ask your father (and answer if you are a dad)


I received this list today in a press release, and I thought it was pretty neat. It came from a company called <a href=”http://www.pricelesslegacy.com/” target=”_blank”>Priceless Legacy</a> that sells “life story” books. I’m not advocating the company by any means, but I thought this list of questions to ask your dad at Father’s Day was worth sharing.

The fathers reading this just might want to answer these questions for their own youngsters. They are written in the past tense because I think the idea is for adult children to pose them to their dads, but I think they can just as well be answered by fathers of young children. (I’m talking to you, Michael.)

1. What did you enjoy most about being a dad? Least?

2. Are there things you wish you had done differently as a father?

3. In what ways are we alike and in what ways are we different?

4. Why did you marry my mother?

5. Is there anything you every wanted to tell us (me) but have not?

6. What is the secret to raising good kids?

7. Is there anything you regret not having asked your parents (my grandparents)?

8. Do you think today’s fathers have it harder, easier or just different?

9. What do you want to make sure that my children and grandchildren will remember about you?

Posted by Julie Moran Alterio on Wednesday, May 27th, 2009 at 5:10 pm |
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Playing hooky: a parental judgement call


Well, I did it: I kept my son out of school on Friday even though he had two tests and a project due. And I hope I’m not getting him in trouble by posting on it.

Okay, so the truth is I arranged with his teachers to have him take both tests on Thursday, and hand in his portion of a team alegebra project the same day. So, the damage was minimal, if there was any at all.

But in the end I reasoned that he wouldn’t remember that day at school in years to come. He will, however, always remember our day: We went to the free Green Day concert at Central Park for the Good Morning American summer concert series.

Needless to say, it’s his favorite band, and pretty high on my list as well. And I can’t ask for a better day, nor a more fun outing for him (above). No, that’s not me on the right. I took the photo. (I still have a tad more “coverage” on my head — no offense to the man in the photo.)

Anyway, this has been a periodic judgement call for me, as it is for many parents, I suspect. I had the day off, so it was no issue on my end. But education is important, and occasionally parents may opt to keep the kid home. I handle it on a case-by-case basis, but it’s something I take seriously.

I spoke to a couple of other parents at the show who had done the same thing, and they had all made the same decision: That it was a treat worth cutting school for the day.

Is it something that can be abused? Certainly. I have friends who were periodically kept home from school for a “mental health day,” which I think is of limited value for most kids, depending on age and circumstances.

But the question is when do you think it’s okay to have your kid play hooky?

One final note on the show, it really was a treat. I’ve blogged on the music element of it on The Listening Room, our music blog. But for those that didn’t see it, here’s a clip from GMA:

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Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Sunday, May 24th, 2009 at 11:57 am |

My son and the icy little “planet”


I remember one of my son’s first trips to the Museum of Natural History years ago. He was at the height of his interest in astronomy — one of those rites of passage evey kid seems to go through. It’s like the interest all kids develop at one time or another in dinosaurs.

So there we were in the parking garage entrance area, where the ticket booths are. Along the far wall are models of the planets, and we followed them from the start: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, and so on. We followed the line down until we hit Neptune, then kept walking and wound up inside an adjacent gift shop.

“May I help you?” the woman asked.

“Yes, we’re looking for Pluto,” I said.

“It’s not a planet,” she said.

My son and I were greatly disappointed, to say the least.

Little did I realize at the time that we were at the height of controversy surrounding Pluto, which has since been officially demoted from planet status.

I’m actually in the midst of finishing a book about it all, titled the Pluto Files by Neil deGrasse Tyson, head man at the museum’s Haydn Planetarium. Turns out the museum started an uproar when it refurbished the planetarium without Pluto among the planets.

Anyway, it’s a story that, as they say in my business, has legs. Just last week, our neighbors had a dinner party which they dubbed “astronomy night” for all the kids, and we pulled out a couple of telescopes to see Saturn in the southern sky.

In the middle of it all, my son decided to poll everyone at the party on whether Pluto really was a planet. Needless to say, the results were inconclusive. But I couldn’t help but sense that a lot of the kids really miss Pluto as a full-fledged planet. My son certainly does.

The experience heightened my realization that our kids are growing up with some different realities than we had as kids.

These aren’t necessarily life-changing situations or ideals. It’s just different. When I was a kid T. Rex was supposed to have been a slow, lumbering creature that walked like Godzilla in the Japanese monster flicks, and there were a few less elements in the periodic table that I had to memorize.

But I’ve come to see it as a positive thing. Parents are traditionally supposed to help educate kids on the world around them. Now it seems my son and I are learning a thing or two together. And that’s kinda cool.

Even if I had one more planet than him.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Monday, May 18th, 2009 at 12:05 pm |


When is Blended Family Day?


Here’s a built-in problem in blended families: You never have the whole family together for Mother’s Day or Father’s Day.

There’s a simple reason for it. Namely, my son will always be with his mom on Mother’s Day (as he was earlier this month) and my girlfriend’s son will be with his dad on Father’s Day. So, we’re inevitably incomplete when celebrating our respective parenting days.

Kinda makes it hard to have the ideal family day.

Or does it?

Bethany Grey, editor at eHow.com, offered a list of suggestions for dads and stepdads to celebrate Father’s Day in a blog titled “How to Celebrate Father’s Day in a Blended Family.” I don’t agree with all of it, but some of Grey’s suggestions make sense, including the idea to shop for Father’s Day cards with the child. It’s a good stepdad experience to share.

Mostly, I like the idea of doing something the day before, something Grey didn’t hit on. This year, we grilled hot dogs and steak the day before Mother’s Day and had a picnic outside. It was fun and we did the family thing. I’m thinking we’ll do the same with my girlfriend’s son the day before Father’s Day next month.

One thing I’ve never wanted to do is give my girlfriend’s son the notion that I’m replacing his dad, at least not that way. This makes for something of a juggling act at times. But that’s a blog for another day.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Wednesday, May 13th, 2009 at 10:35 am |

Saturday in the Park, Take 2


My son is not a great sharer. Who is at 17 months?

But he has high expectations of other little folks – in his mind they should all welcome the opportunity to share their scooters, and balls and water bottles, or whatever else he sets his sights on.

Walking through Central Park yesterday and Saturday no toy was safe. If the speed at which he goes after a loose ball indicates how good an athlete he’ll be, I am very excited.

In one case Saturday afternoon, he spotted a small red soccer ball and made a beeline for it. The 2- or 3-year-old boy to whom it belonged – we’ll call him JoJo, that’s what his mother did — wasn’t having any of it. He grabbed it away with a ‘No, mine’ shriek.

My son was not dissuaded. He moved over 10 feet to where Jojo’s larger, plastic playground ball (you know, the kind you’d get out of those supermarket cages). Jojo reclaimed that one too. The same act repeated when my son found Jojo’s whiffle ball. 

Finally I remembered that we had a tennis ball in the bottom of the stroller. I retrieved it, handed it to my son. He threw it several feet. Of course Jojo reached it first and picked it up.

Jojo’s parents must be communists. Ownership is a nebulous concept.

When my son tried to get his tennis ball back, Jojo just pulled it away and yelled ‘No,mine’.

Posted by Jon Bandler on Monday, May 11th, 2009 at 12:32 pm |
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Saturday in the Park…


I spent most of my single 20s and 30s wandering around Central Park on summer weekends. And there was a small hill next to the lake on the west side just south of 77th Street where people would gather to listen to Dave Ippolito, better known as That Guitar Man (or That Shirtless Guitar Man when the weather was warm enough).

I wasn’t a regular — I only know his name because he showed up as a contestant once on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. The music is folksy, ok a bit sappy sometimes, and his leftist, lonely heart spiel is the same most weekends. But it was a great place to sit and relax, people-watch and wonder what drew them all there. 

I hadn’t gone the past few years but what will draw me there every chance I get for now on is that my son loves music and seemed to have a ball when we stopped by Saturday afternoon.

He got out of his stroller and danced, and rolled around the grass, and mostly clapped when he heard the crowd clapping.

So we’ll be back. There just won’t be much of a chance for people-watching because I have to keep my eye on my son and keep him from running into the lake.

Posted by Jon Bandler on Monday, May 11th, 2009 at 10:26 am |
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Most popular baby names in 2008: Emma, Jacob


In four years, the nation’s kindergarten classrooms will be filled with Emmas and Isabellas, Jacobs and Michaels.

Those were the most popular names for babies born in 2008, according to the “Social Security Administration”:http://www.ssa.gov/pressoffice/pr/baby-names2008-pr.htm.

Here’s the list:

1)   Jacob        Girls:      1)   Emma
2)   Michael                  2)   Isabella
3)   Ethan                     3)   Emily
4)   Joshua                   4)   Madison
5)   Daniel                    5)   Ava
6)   Alexander              6)   Olivia
7)   Anthony                7)   Sophia
8)   William                   8)   Abigail
9)   Christopher            9)   Elizabeth
10) Matthew                10) Chloe

Posted by Jane Lerner on Friday, May 8th, 2009 at 11:36 am |
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SAHM shut out of take kids to work day


Does a stay-at-home parent work? Or do they sit around all day watching TV? That seems to be the opinion of a superintendent of schools in Alabama who refused to allow a stay-at-home mom and her daughter to participate in Take Our Daughters And Sons To Work Day. He said that if stay-at-home parents participated, they would probably just let the kids watch TV all day.

I was so incensed after I read about homemaker Sandra Thompson on <a href=”http://www.salon.com/mwt/broadsheet/feature/2009/04/24/take_our_daughters/index.html” target=”_blank”>Salon.com</a>, that I had to share it with you. You can also read another story about the topic on <a href=”http://www.womanist-musings.com/2009/04/stay-at-home-mother-not-considered.html” target=”_blank”>Womanist Musings</a> and at this <a href=”http://www.waaytv.com/Global/story.asp?S=10235278&nav=menu635_1″ target=”_blank”>Alabama news station</a>.

I imagine Thompson wanted to share skills, including how she chooses nutritional meals for her family of three kids, balances the household budget, keeps the house clean and tidy, manages everyone’s schedule, etc. These are complex tasks. (I know because I’m always falling behind in all of them.)  Having stay-at-home parents participate in the event, which was held yesterday, is even encouraged by the organization that sponsors <a href=”http://www.daughtersandsonstowork.org” target=”_blank”>Take Our Daughters And Sons To Work</a>. The Web site has suggested activities like having the kids assist with making lunch and dinner, food shopping and similar tasks.

But the school’s chief told homemaker Sandra Thompson that her job was not “professional” enough. Now, first of all, what about all the parents who work in jobs like Wal-Mart cashier, waitress/waiter, wallpaper hanger, etc. Are they not allowed to participate because they are not “professional” enough?

I personally am angry about this because of the message it sends to Thompson’s children about the value of their mother’s chosen work. The superintendent even had the nerve to say Thompon’s job was important, that he admires it and that his own wife stays home with their children. What a double standard! It’s a great choice, but heaven forbid we should use it as an example to our sons and daughters.

In my life as parent and as a newspaper reporter, I meet lots of people who are former professionals who have given up careers in law, on Wall Street, in business and even medicine to be with their kids full time. I admire stay-at-home parents tremendously. (And, truth be told, often wish I could be one.)

I think we’ve amply seen in the case of <a href=”http://www.lohud.com/article/2009904230440″ target=”_blank”>Madlyn Primoff</a> of Scarsdale — the mother who ordered her two daughters out of the car for fighting and ended up arrested for child endangerment — that being a lawyer or other “professional” doesn’t mean you are necessarily a great example to your kids.

What do you think? Should stay-at-home parents be encouraged to participate in Take Our Daughters And Sons To Work Day? If you are a SAHM or SAHD, would you keep your child home for the event to show what you do for your family?

Posted by Julie Moran Alterio on Friday, April 24th, 2009 at 1:37 pm |
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A dad’s place is…. on a blog


Leave it to a dad’s blog to make this case, but the Examiner’s fatherhood blog has put out a list of five reasons why dad blogs are worth keeping an eye one. You can read the post here.

(Kathy Gardner/The Journal News)

Obviously, Parents Place is a general parenting blog, with capable dads AND moms in the mix. So, we’re more inclusive and take a wider view of parenting.

But I’ve always felt that there’s a need out here for more of a voice from fathers, whether it’s dads in traditional homes like my co-bloggers Jon and Len, or myself,  a father building a blended family. So it’s reassuring to see a list like this out there, especially with more dads involved in hands-on parenting.

And remember, there’s no shortage of good dad blogs on our blogroll, including Crazy Computer Dad and David Mott’s Dad’s House.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Thursday, April 23rd, 2009 at 8:00 am |


We’ve all had those Scarsdale mom moments


The number one topic of conversation where ever I’ve been in the past day is the Scarsdale mom who got so fed up with her two kids bickering in the back seat that she threw them out of the car in downtown White Plains.

If you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t read the “story”:http://www.lohud.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20090421/NEWS02/904210347, here’s the short version: one of the kids, 12, ran back to the car and got in. The other, 10, stood on the side of the road, crying until a passerby bought her ice cream and called the cops.

When the mom, Madlyn Primoff, got home to Scarsdale, she called the police, who told her to go to White Plains PD to get her daughter. The mom did and was promptly arrested.

Then the outcry started. About half the people who have commented on the story on the LoHud forums think the mom, a high-powered New York City attorney, is terrible, deserves to be arrested and should count her lucky stars that nothing bad happened to her daughter while she was standing on the White Plains street corner.

The other half think the police over reacted. The mother was probably more than justified in her actions and the girls were probably brats who needed to be taught a lesson, they say.

I’m fascinated by this story. I find myself in the middle of the two groups. I think the mom lost her cool and probably regretted her actions as soon as she left the kid on the side of the road.

Would I have done the same if pushed hard enough? I’d like to think not. But unless you’re the parent of a 13-year-old, you really don’t understand how crazy they can make you.

I’ve never thrown my kids out of the car. But…..I remember once when my youngest daughter, now almost 8, was about 2 or 3. It was a freezing cold late afternoon, already dark, and I stopped at ShopRite to pick up some groceries before I had to get my older daughter at some activity.

As we were getting ready to leave the store, my charming little girl pitched a full-throttle temper tantrum because she didn’t want to put her jacket on. There she was, on the floor, kicking, screaming, refusing to put her jacket on even though it was probably 10 degrees outside.

What I’ll never forget about this particular temper tantrum was that for a couple of memorable seconds I contemplated — no dreamed of — leaving her there. On the floor. In ShopRite. Just walking out the door without her…..

Of course I didn’t. I struggled to stuff her squirming body into her jacket, then stuffed her into her car seat and drove off, with her.

But as I read about the Scarsdale mom, I remembered this incident. And I realized that most of us have, at least for a couple of seconds, dreamed of doing what the Scarsdale mom did. I guess the difference is that most of us don’t act on those impulses.

Posted by Jane Lerner on Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009 at 2:53 pm |

Why I’m walking in the March for Babies


Last summer, one of my husband’s college friends, Steve, came to visit with his wife and two children, a little boy a bit older than my daughter and a baby. They stayed with us for a couple of days and we all had a nice time, visiting the Long Island Sound and just relaxing. It was the first time I met his wife, Jennifer, and we hit if off right away. The Pumpkin fell in love with the baby. A few months later, we found out they were expecting a new baby who was due in June. But something went wrong. They’ve spent the last several days in the hospital delivering the baby, who died. We’ve been getting e-mail updates about the experience, including a last e-mail that came at 2 a.m. this morning with details about the keepsake box with a lock of hair and some photos that they brought home instead of a baby.

It’s been hard to get Jennifer and Steve out of my mind. I could easily have ended up with a similar box if it weren’t for the life-saving treatment my daughter received at White Plains Hospital Center.

Four years ago on April 20, I went into the hospital showing symptoms of preeclampsia, a disease that affects about 5 percent of pregnancies and poses risk for both mother and baby. I hadn’t read about preeclampsia before and didn’t really know what the doctors were so concerned about. I had been showing the signs of preeclampsia for a couple of weeks and had even spent a weekend on bedrest, but the doctors didn’t use that word yet. Here’s a clue: If your hands are so swollen that you lose sensation, it’s time to worry. Swollen ankles in pregnancy: Not so much.

My first night I was dazed, suffering from a horrible cold, unable to sleep. Over the next few days, the signs were clear that the doctors expected me to deliver my daughter early, but wanted to wait as long as possible. I was given steroid shots to mature my daughter’s lungs, moved to a private room and ordered to rest on my left side. In retrospect, I think I went into a bit of denial. After my cold cleared up by the weekend, I actually felt really great. It was sunny outside and I didn’t feel like staying in bed. It seemed absurd that I would actually have the baby that early, and so I discounted the idea, especially since I felt so healthy. The swelling had gone down and I didn’t have other classic symptoms, like a headache or pain in my abdomen. (I found out later that these are important symptoms of something going wrong. At the time, I just knew that nurses came into my room every four hours to ask me, “Do you have a headache? Any pain in your abdomen?”)

Every day, I rode a wheelchair down to radiology and got a look at my baby, who was healthy but tiny. Things were going so well that after a week and a half, on May 2, my doctor during rounds that morning even talked about maybe letting me go home on bedrest for a while. That was before he got the results of that morning’s blood draw. (Oh yeah, every morning I gave about five vials. Fun stuff.)

Later that afternoon, I had just showered and was sitting up in bed, making phone calls and relaxing when a phalanx of nurses from labor and delivery strode into my room with a gurney and told me I was coming with them to deliver the baby. This was a shock. My own nurse came in behind them and said the doctor had been trying to reach me, but I had been on the phone. My bloodwork showed that I had developed a complication of preeclampsia called HELLP Syndrome, which basically meant that internal organs like my liver weren’t doing so hot. The baby had to come out, or else we both would be in trouble.

After panicked calls to reach my husband to come as quickly as possible and to my sister-in-law for reassurance, I was prepped for a C-section. That evening, my daughter was born at 26 weeks, five days, gestation. She weighed just 1 pound, 13.4 ounces, or 834 grams. I didn’t even get to see her born because I was so swollen the anesthesiologist couldn’t get a needle into my spine. I had general anesthesia. I didn’t get to see her for more than 24 hours because I was stuck in bed in a haze thanks to a magnesium sulfate drip. I didn’t hold her for almost a week because she was so delicate. I just sat by her incubator, lightly touching her with my hand and talking to her. Her entire hand was the size of the tip of my pinky finger. The first days were so scary that it’s hard to even describe what it was like. The first week of a preemie’s life will determine what happens for the rest of it. And for us, the news was all good. She didn’t need a ventilator, and was breathing with just positive air pressure. No bleeding in the brain. Lots of pee. A feisty attitude. (That hasn’t changed.) I got to hold her for the first time six days after she was born. It happened to be Mother’s Day. Part of me is still in that chair, holding my swaddled baby for the first time, oblivious to everything else. One of the neonatologists walked up to me and started to talk to me about how well she was doing, but I ignored him, repeating over and over, “My baby, my baby.”

Today, she weighs about 33 pounds and is as tall as some 5-year-olds. And when she climbs into my lap for snuggles, the world still disappears and my mind repeats, “My baby, my baby.”

On Sunday, for the fourth year, I will be lacing up my sneakers and heading to White Plains to walk with hundreds of other parents who know exactly how I felt in that first moment I held my daughter. Parents of preemies never take a day or a minute for granted. We know how easily we could have come home with nothing but heartbreak. We are thrilled for the chance to help out the March of Dimes, which is committed to making sure that more babies come home with their parents. I pester my family, friends and coworkers for donations because I know that every dollar raised will go to programs to prevent premature birth and to make sure that the ones who are born early, like my Pumpkin, will live.

While I was writing this, my daughter came over to me to give me a hug and show off the blue ponytail holder her grandmother put in her (long and messy) hair today. I have never cut her hair, which is below her waist. I hadn’t realized until this moment why I haven’t, even though I know that it would be nice to have a lock of the baby blond at the tips before the whole head turns darker. I don’t need a keepsake. I have my baby. I’m marching on Sunday so that other moms can say the same.

May 8, 2005

May 8, 2005

Posted by Julie Moran Alterio on Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009 at 2:51 pm |

Here comes the Bu….


My father in-law, who is a brilliant doctor, worried a few months ago that his only grandchild might have a hearing problem. It seemed that when he and my mother-in-law sat with the little boy, he wouldn’t respond to the simplest of commands.

He has nothing to worry about. Turns out it was just stubbornness, not hearing impairment or disrespect.

Our toddler now sits in the living room of our 4th floor apartment and screams out each time he hears a city bus near the stop on the corner. It’s very impressive.

Now while hearing isn’t an issue, pronouncing the letter ‘s’ might be. As the M7 or M11 approaches our block, my son breaks into a smile, points to the window and yells out ‘Bu, Bu’.

Posted by Jon Bandler on Monday, April 20th, 2009 at 2:11 pm |
| | 1 Comment »


About this blog
Parents’ Place is a hangout for openly discussing the A’s to Z’s of raising a child in the Lower Hudson Valley. From deciding when to stop using a binky to when to let your teenager take driving lessons, Parents’ Place is here to let us all vent, share, and most of all, learn from each other.
Leading the conversation are Julie Moran Alterio, a business reporter and mom of a toddler, Jorge Fitz-Gibbon, a reporter and single father with joint custody of a 9-year-old son, and Len Maniace, a reporter and father of two sons.


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About the authors
Julie Moran AlterioJulie Moran AlterioJulie Moran Alterio, her husband and baby girl — “Pumpkin” — share their Northern Westchester home with three iPods and more colorful plastic toys than seems necessary to entertain one tiny human. READ MORE
Jorge Fitz-GibbonJorge Fitz-GibbonJorge Fitz-Gibbon has been a journalist for more than 20 years and a father for nine. READ MORE
Jane LernerJane LernerJane Lerner covers health and hospitals for The Journal News in Rockland, where she lives with her husband and two children. READ MORE
Len Maniace.jpgLen ManiaceLen Maniace is a reporter and father of two sons. READ MORE