The Little Scientist Effect

I just called Sarah, asking for a strategy.

I explained to her that my tiny terrorist kept asking me to play with him, and despite the need to get a bunch of laundry folded and put away, I actually decided to play instead. I don’t do this often.

I went upstairs to play with our “magnets” with him, and we were building cool things. Every time I would build something neat, he would knock it down, gleefully, but he would never let me knock his down. I asked him not to several times, telling him that it made me sad when he knocked down my cool stuff.  He continued to smash my magnets. Eventually, I got up and walked away, telling him that I didn’t want to play with someone who would keep breaking my toys.

I came downstairs and sat on the couch and realized that I was REALLY hurt that he was being so unkind to me while I was playing with him. I took it REALLY personally. So I called the Toddler Whisperer.

Sarah is right on top of it.  I told her what happened, and we talked a little bit about what to do in the future. She told me that as soon as he starts breaking down my (or someone else’s) magnets, he should be ‘interrupted’ – removed from the situation. I can choose to sit with him or leave him while he is understandably upset that he has been removed from playing, but once he is calm, I am to explain that it is not okay for him to break MY magnets. I shall tell him that he is free to crash his own as much as he likes, but only his own. He would then be allowed to play with the magnets again, so long as he followed those instructions. If he were to crash my (or anothers) magnets again, the magnets would be put away.

“It looks like you can’t play nicely with the magnets. We will have to put them away. We can try again tomorrow.”

There will likely be another period of upset while he protests that his magnets have been taken away, but sticking to the consequence is paramount.

It was then that Sarah dropped this parenting DIAMOND of advice upon me.

She said:

“Children are like little scientists. They are doing experiments to see what kinds of reactions they will get.”

(This, I was familiar with.)

“The thing is, every time they get a DIFFERENT reaction, it gives them more data to work with, which increases the length of the experiment. The more consistent you can be with your reactions, the less data they are given, the quicker they will move on.”

Mind = blown.

I mean, really, I knew that you want to be consistent, and I knew that you need to have firm boundaries. But the whole idea of making sure that you are giving them the same results every time? So that the experiment can be concluded and they can put that one to rest? I hadn’t heard it phrased in those terms before. It makes perfect sense.

So there you have it. I will be putting this into effect immediately, and see how quickly we can get some of these challenging behaviors to extinguish themselves.

Perhaps it would be helpful for mama to rearrange her thinking of Ryder as a “tiny Scientist” instead of a “tiny terrorist.”


A Beautiful Resolution.

It was 5:00pm. We had eaten an early dinner, and the kids were sitting on the couch watching Pete’s Dragon. Ryder was acting up and I knew it was because he was tired – he hadn’t had a nap, and his crazies were coming out.

After jumping on me several times, and hinting that he would like “boob-couch” – to nurse – I told him that he wasn’t going to get ‘boob’ again until it was bed time. He immediately went into urgent, melt-down mode, insisting that it WAS bed time, and he wanted boob-bed immediately.

Brock and I had a quick, hushed conversation about the dangers of letting him go to bed for the night when it was only 5 o’clock, and decided that it was too early. I told Ryder that he could have boob-bed in 30 minutes, and we could go to bed if he waited. The baby gate was blocking the upstairs, so he wasn’t able to just head up the stairs. I told him several times to play, or sit and watch the show until 5:30, and we would go upstairs together.

In traditional Ryder fashion, he decided to PUSH ALL OF THE BUTTONS. Because Rory was sleeping upstairs, I didn’t want to let him go up and play/jump around to pass the time. Instead of listening to my suggestion, he went and got a small chair and climbed over the baby gate. On his way up the stairs, he laughed tauntingly, “I over the baaaaaby gaaaaate.”

In order to keep Rory from being woken up, I went with him. At this point, it was probably 5:10. I kept reminded him that he only had x number of minutes until we could go to sleep.

I suppose, in retrospect, there was no harm in letting him go to bed early, but the principal of him getting to do something just because he throws a giant fit is really what we are trying to avoid here.

Upstairs, I sat by the entrance to his bedroom and told him I would come lay in bed with him as soon as it was 5:30. He was jumping around and acting like a maniac – well beyond any sort of normal level of maniac. He kept yelling at me, “I. WANT. BOOB. BED.” I ignored most of his behavior. Eventually, I went into the bedroom with him to keep the noise sequestered to his room (again, trying to stop him from waking Rory) and sat by the door. Jumping and flipping around in bed, it didn’t seem like it was should be that difficult to wait the remaining 7 minutes to 5:30.

I guess at that point, Ryder decided it was time to up his game again. Screaming at the top of his lungs, he demanded I give him boob-bed. I reminded him, calmly, that I don’t give him ANYTHING when he speaks to me that way, and that he needed to calm down. He took a deep breath, and assured me he was calm. I told him there were 5 more minutes before we could go to sleep… and he lost his shit. He picked up the fan that was sitting next to the bed, and threw it at me. In the very dim light of the bedroom, I didn’t see it coming, only heard it.

When it hit me, I immediately went to level 10 rage. In a monumental demonstration of self control, I didn’t immediately beat the shit out of him, which was the very real, very physical urge. I stood up, and walked over to the bed, and sat down next to him. Voice cold as ice, I told him, “NOW, you will not be getting boob. It’s time to lie down and go to sleep.”

Not one to be dismissed, Ryder launched into a full on physical and auditory assault. He screamed, he punched, he flipped and kicked. He alternated between, “I WANT BOOB” and “I WANT TO GO BACK DOWNSTAIRS.”  He promised me, “I will not do that again!” and in the next breath told me, “I’M GOING TO BITE YOU.”

I was deeply entrenched in my rage, and not giving an inch. I held his hands and didn’t let him hit me. I stopped him from biting me. I resisted every urge to punish him physically, and sat stoically as he threw the most epic fit I have ever witnessed. I kept telling myself to hold space for his calm to come back, kept swallowing my rage and disgust.

At one point, when he became physically frightening, I pinned him down on the bed. He was screaming and throwing his body around, and I let the weight of my body keep him from hurting himself or me. It was a matter of minutes, but finally his screaming quieted and his breath slowed down. He was still demanding that I give him boob bed, or let him go back downstairs. I was still insisting that neither was going to happen, and we were embroiled in a full-on power-struggle.

I rolled off of him, resolute that he was NOT going to be leaving this room, NOR was he going to get to have boob, and it SERVES HIM RIGHT for being such a JACKASS.

He scrambled away from me, out of breath and talking harshly. I knew that he was talking, but I wasn’t really listening. I was still deep in my anger.


He said it through clenched teeth, and it didn’t immediately register what he was asking. And then it did.

For the last several weeks, I have been using the technique of escaping a power struggle that allows both of us to get what we want: when we are in the middle of a fight for something, I offer him the choice of ‘starting over.’  For example, when I am tired of waiting for him to get in his car seat, and I want to scream at him, instead I suggest, “Let’s go back to the beginning, and I will ask you to get in your car seat, then you can show me how you SHOULD get in your car seat, and everyone will be happy.”

He was asking for a do-over.

My rage was immediately gone, and I took a deep breath.

“You want to start over, Ryder? You want to try again?”

Real tears this time, instead of the angry rage tears. “Yes. I want to try again.”

So together, Ryder and I held hands and went downstairs. We sat on the couch for a minute, and I told him to ask again. He said, “Mama, may I have boob bed please?”

I nodded and said, “Okay buddy. Go upstairs and get in bed and I will come lay with you.”

He excitedly got up, ran upstairs and jumped into bed. He was smiling as he waited for me, and I laid down next to him. I let him nurse himself to sleep at 5:47pm, and it took mere minutes.

I honestly did not expect that beautiful resolution. I didn’t expect the solution to come from him. I have never been more proud. And I never, ever, cease to be amazed by what my children can teach me about being generous, forgiving, and kind.

Ryder Kane – The Birth

On Wednesday, November 21st, I was 40 weeks and 5 days pregnant.  I was tired of being pregnant, and tired of trying to be patient, and ready to have a baby.  I had been looking forward to giving birth, and SO EXCITED for so long, only to continue being pregnant.  I was READY.

Brock, my mom and I were all sitting on the couch watching TV.  My contractions were strong when I had them, but they were so sporadic it quickly became frustrating.  I decided, for the first time, to take matters into my own hands… so I started some nipple stimulation to see if it would help things ‘pick up’.  It really, really did.  Contractions came hard and fast and long.  At one point, they were only 4 minutes apart!  I stopped nipple stimulation, and the contractions kept coming.  Around 10pm, I told Brock that I felt like things were getting real – really real.  He said that he was tired and went upstairs to get in bed for a while… and I got miffed.  Angrily, I sat down on the couch and brooded and grumped myself out of labor.  By 11pm, my contractions had essentially stopped.

Mom and I spent a good half hour picking up the house and making things presentable just in case things got started again, and when they didn’t, we said goodnight. I was still upset with Brock when I got in bed, so I told him.  He apologized, we kissed and made up, and went to sleep.  I was awakened a few minutes later with a good, hard contraction.  “Good“, I thought, and I ignored it and went back to sleep.  Contraction.  Sleep.  Contraction.  Sleep.

I continued this way until nearly 2am when I finally decided to start timing them.  They were 7 minutes apart.  I got up, ran the tub full of water, lit a bunch of candles and decided that I would call my midwife the moment they got closer than 6 minutes apart.  I got in the tub, jittery and excited, allowed myself to relax and… nothing.

Just freaking nothing.  I didn’t have another single contraction for the 30 minutes I sat in the tub.  I sent Brock back to bed, told him to sleep, and I tried to doze again.  Contraction.  Sleep.  Contraction.  Sleep.  Contraction.  Anger.  Frustration.  Sleep.  Was this real, or not?

I got out of bed, quietly, and noticed my mom was awake.  It was around 4am, and I asked if she wanted to go downstairs with me.  I needed something to eat, and perhaps some mindless TV while I tried to bounce on the ball, squat, and do anything I could think of to make my uterus make up its mind.  I called my midwife to tell her what was going on (contracting 6-10 minutes apart since around midnight) and she said she would head over.  Mom and I sat and watched America’s Funniest Home Videos and snacked while we waited.  I was nervous about a false alarm, so I drank a little bit of red wine.  But the contractions kept coming, and they were getting stronger.

Stephanie, my midwife, showed up about an hour later, and my contractions – you guessed it! – STOPPED.  Completely.  For nearly an hour we sat and chatted while I didn’t have a single one.  I started getting more and more nervous, and felt more and more like a false-alarm jerk until around 6am, when they started picking up again.  I told her I had been contracting ALL night, and checking myself and my cervix hadn’t changed a bit.  To me, I still felt about 1cm dilated, maybe 50% effaced.  She asked me if I’d like her to check me and I jumped at the chance.  Maybe I just really suck at this checking myself.

“Well, you have a very posterior cervix.  Girl!  How do you even reach this??!  Let me see if I can help it out,” she told me.  I laughed and muttered something about long fingers.  She hooked her fingers into my cervix and gently coaxed it more forward/anterior.  It wasn’t comfortable, but it wasn’t painful or terrible either.  After a minute or so of mucking around she said, “You have a very happy cervix!  It feels about 5cm dilated, and 75% effaced!”  She then went on to explain how the baby’s head can’t apply the right kind of pressure to a posterior cervix, and moving it forward allowed it to open to where it should have been with all my contractions.

Woooooooo!  My heart soared!  Not a false alarm!  Things are moving!!  We are having a baby today!!!  Immediately after, I FINALLY had a bloody show and lost my mucus plug.  The contractions kept coming with increasing intensity (although not any more frequently) and we started making phone calls.  Laura C, to come over and help with the kids when they woke up.  Jane, to come and bring the kids to her house.  Julie, to be the awesome  midwife assistant.  And Lora D, to be my birth photographer.  It felt like just minutes passed, and people started showing up in my house.  Suddenly I was in a living room full of energetic, beautiful, birthy women that were all there just to support me.

It was 7:30am, and both of my kids were still sleeping, which is kind of unheard of.  I went upstairs to my bathroom while the midwives got all of their equipment brought in and set up.  I didn’t want Ronan or Ruby to see me when they woke, since they would be leaving – we felt better telling them mama wasn’t home.  There was lots of happy sitting and chatting in the bathroom while I contracted every 10-15 minutes or so.  From here on out, my timeline gets hazy, because I didn’t have a clock and gave my cell phone to Laura (@kittybiscuit) so she could live-tweet.  But once the kids were picked up, it was time for things to get serious, and since I felt like I didn’t need to worry about Ronan or Ruby – I could finally get serious.

Stephanie made me “run the stairs” to see if that would get things moving a little faster.  Down each step one at a time, up two at a time, as quickly as I could.  Someone at the top to cheer me on, and someone at the bottom.  I was high on adrenaline, and excited to be moving towards my goal: a brand new baby.  I did the steps 6 times and then needed a rest.  Snacked.  Drank water.  Peed.  Contracted.  Contracted.  Contracted.

A while later, Stephanie sent Brock and I out for a walk.  Power walking, stopping through contractions, during which my mom cooked everyone breakfast.  This was the first time that my contractions really picked up, and started coming more frequently than every 15 minutes.  We came back in the house and chatted with everyone while they finished eating.  It was so lovely.  Bright, friendly, full of laughter.  All of my support people seemed so happy to be there.  It was right around then that my contractions became hard and long enough to moan through.  I stood for 5 or 6 of them, and then wanted to move into the living room.  I started needing counter pressure, long contractions with lots of moaning.  Stephanie and Julie nodded at each other knowingly.  I wanted to get moving upstairs towards the bathroom, where I had planned, visualized, and dreamed about having this baby.

I remember motion.  My labor was so full of motion.  It felt good to rock, and sway, and move.  I danced my way through every single contraction.

It was around this point, Stephanie suggested that I lay down in bed and try to sleep between contractions.  I hadn’t actually slept at all yet, and some quiet time in a dark room seemed like it would do me good.  So we pulled all the curtains, turned out the lights, and Brock and I cuddled into bed for a nap.  It was wonderful.  Quiet, and comfortable, and… contraction.  They were still far apart enough that I could actually rest between them.  I dozed.  I snoozed just a little.  I finally fell asleep…  and then I was woken up by the biggest, strongest contraction yet.  It felt pushy.  I wanted to get in the tub.  Immediately.

I got out of bed and stripped, started the tub, and everyone else moved upstairs to join me.  Being in the water felt amazing.  My contractions, still plenty far apart, were incredibly powerful.  I wanted to push at the peak of them.  Everyone got very quiet when a contraction started coming on.  Between contractions, we had chatter, jokes and lots of smiles.  My mom was worried.  Stephanie was calm.  Laura C was excited!  Julie was bright and encouraging.  Lora D was comforting.  And Brock was strong.

Eventually, after changing positions several times, I wanted Brock in the tub behind me.  I wanted to lean on him, push against him, hold his hands.  He sat in that position and bore my weight for the rest of the delivery.  I asked for music, and then wanted it turned off.  I rolled on to hands and knees, and then back.  Stephanie told me to check myself and see if I could feel the baby’s head, and I could!  It was right there, less than my first knuckle deep!  With every SLOW coming contraction, I would push… but they weren’t the right kind of pushes.  They weren’t the pushes that made a baby come out.

I started getting incredibly frustrated.  And angry.  I wanted the contractions, because they meant a baby, but I didn’t want the contractions because they hurt.  I hummed.  I hummed oh-so-tunelessly between contractions, and started shaking my head “no” as I felt a contraction come on.  I felt myself start to cry.  I wanted to give up.  I was done.  “I’m so tired.  I’m so exhausted.  I can’t do this.  I don’t want to do this.”

Support and encouragement rose up around me.

“You CAN do this, Mandy.”

“You ARE doing this.”

“You’re almost there, and when the hard part is over you get to hold your baby.”

“You are so strong, Mandy.  You are tired, but your body is strong.”

I shook my head.  I didn’t want to hear the words.  I didn’t want to believe them.  But they were right.  And they said all the right things.  I pushed forward.

I was tired of laying and Brock’s legs were asleep from me leaning, so we moved into a squatting position for a few contractions.  It felt good to change position, but I wanted to be laying on my side.  That was where I felt the best.  It felt like the right place to deliver a baby.  I moved back on to my side in the tub, and then checked myself again.  The head was gone.  Changing positions had made the baby move all the way back up.  I cried and cried.  I was so disappointed.

Stephanie said she wanted to give me a spot to push into.  She told me she was going to put her fingers where she wanted me to push, and that it might help me push more effectively.  When she put her fingers in to check, she said that I was an “anterior cervical lip.” (remember?!  With Ruby?!)  That means that a small portion of the front of my cervix had gotten stuck between the baby’s head and my pubic bone, and had swollen up.  I couldn’t push past it.  She said she was going to push it out of the way… and then she did.

It was literally the most painful, visceral reaction I’d ever had.  Immediately, my whole body contracted up, and I yelled out.  It hurt, but it was also just incredibly uncomfortable.  It made me feel like I wanted to puke.  But I knew it was doing something, because it REALLY made me want to push.  She said she had to keep it moved out of the way until the next contraction.  I was crying, “You’re hurting me.  You’re hurting me,” over and over.  I told her, “I REALLY want to cuss!” and then I said, “I feel like a toddler.”  Transition Mandy didn’t fail to make everyone chuckle.

The next contraction mounted, and I checked out.

“No, I don’t want to do this.  I can’t.  I can’t do this.  I’m too tired.  It hurts too much.  I want to stop.”

Julie moved up and held my hand.  She was a comforting voice in my ear, and I needed her there.

Stephanie got down to business.

Now, there is something special about midwives.  Let me tell you, they are a very unique, amazing kind of woman.  They have the beauty and grace and peace to be a rock during labor… but they also have the ability to tell you when it’s time to get the job done.  And they mean it.

“Mandy,” Stephanie told me firmly, “YOU have to decide to do this.  YOU have to get this baby out.  Now we can sit and wait and it can take a few more hours, or you can PUSH and have your baby and be done.”

Tough love.  But it worked.

I pushed, and my water broke.  I had moved the baby down far enough to start to see hair. It was waving around in the water, swaying with the motion.  It was entrancing.

I pushed, and the head began to crown.  Everyone told me to look down!  Look, you can see your baby!  “I don’t want to!” I shouted.  I just wanted to get the baby out.  The head moved back and I thought to myself, “Oh no you don’t!

I pushed, and the baby crowned.  I screamed.  It hurt, but it didn’t hurt that bad… it just felt really good to scream.  It felt like it needed to be screamed.  Another contraction.

Another push.  The head was delivered.  Perfect, covered in long, dark hair.  Two perfect ears.  Nothing else.  The baby was exactly face down.  I was crying.  Brock was crying.  I don’t know if anyone wasn’t crying.

Push.  One really, big, hard, long push.  The shoulders came out all at once, broadly, and body followed so quickly after.  It’s still just a hazy blur, it was so fast.  Stephanie helped me pull the baby up on to my chest, and quickly unwound a single nuchal cord.  I reached my arm down and cupped the little bottom and felt testicles!  “It’s a boy!” I shouted.  I felt Brock’s arms wrap around me as we both gazed down at this perfect little being, our brand new baby boy.  There was vernix everywhere, and his sweet little head was slippery with it.  I couldn’t stop touching him.  He opened his mouth in a single cry and I proclaimed, with tears in my eyes, “Oh baby boy, you are SO tongue tied.”

We sat in the tub together, gazing at each other until his cord stopped pulsing.  I delivered the placenta easily, and let my mom cut the cord.  Brock took the baby, already named Ryder Kane, and got to hold his sweet son as I got up out of the tub, toweled off and moved to the bed.  A few moments later, Ryder was handed to me for his first latch.  And despite his tongue tie, he nursed well immediately.  His newborn evaluation announced him to be 7 pounds and 4 ounces, 21 inches long.  And perfect.

I can’t even begin to imagine a better birth, a more beautiful day.  I am still surprised it took so long (10 hours from when Stephanie came until birth!) but I wouldn’t have changed a thing about it.  I was happy, and surrounded by love.  I had the worlds most perfect birth partner – Brock did EVERYTHING right.  I have never been more proud of him.  My mother was there, and even though it was very difficult for her, she stayed for me.  My beautiful friend Laura got to share in the joy, and shared the joy with all of you.  Stephanie and Julie made me feel safe, and calm, and so powerful.  And Lora took the most amazing pictures of the most incredible day that I will never, ever forget.  She captured each moment.  Perfectly.

In closing, I’d love to share my birth photography video with you.  Thank you for reading, and being a part of this beautiful miracle, even in just one small way.  Enjoy.


Mandy Birth from Lora Denton on Vimeo.