Author: Tripp Underwood

Parenting ideals vs. reality: A guide for new moms and dads

UnderwoodTripp-32_Like many parents-to-be, my wife and I are an optimistic lot. We’re full of great ideas (“We’ll read to the baby 5 hours a day!”), occasionally talk in absolutes (“Our daughter will NEVER have fast food!”) and recognize the importance of the long game (“The road to Harvard starts with the right pre-school!”).

But we’re also realistic. We fully understand that six months from now, when we’re in the thick of it as new, clueless parents, there’s a good chance that a lot of our pre-birth idealism will get thrown out like yesterday’s disposable diapers. (Which I just learned we’re avoiding for environmental reasons. No promises there.)

But just because keeping the goals you set as new parents can be tough doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try; you just need to be reasonable in your expectations. With that in mind, I went to a few different experts from Boston Children’s Hospital for advice on how my wife and I can stick to our guns on some of our core parenting ideals and which ones we can feel less guilty about compromising on.

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Tackling my dad-to-be to-do list

UnderwoodTripp-32_They say a woman becomes a mother the moment she realizes she’s pregnant, but a man isn’t truly a father until he holds his child for the first time. If my marriage is any indication, there’s a lot of truth in this.

Since “we” got pregnant seven months ago, at least one of us has grown a great deal. For half a year, my wife, Nicole, has been changing gradually, both physically and emotionally, in preparation for her new role. But even after some real soul searching, I still feel no different than I did a year ago.

I’m by no means jealous of her bloating, back pain and irrational food cravings and smell aversions, but part of me is envious of the biological boot camp she’s going through. Her body is instinctually nudging her forward, instilling in her experiences and emotions that will prepare her for her new life. My body just sits around and waits for it to happen.

But just because men aren’t physically wired to evolve in preparation for parenthood doesn’t mean we have to be totally blindsided by it. In an effort to ease my transition from dude to dad, I asked for guidance from some parents I know at Boston Children’s Hospital. I got plenty of great pointers, but as it turns out the most practical advice I received wasn’t centered on baby preparation at all, but on self-improvement.

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Caring for Christopher’s Crohn’s disease close to home

Screen Shot 2016-01-14 at 2.47.34 PMGrowing up, Christopher Padilha was a perfectly healthy child. He ate regularly, and even though he was a bit on the smaller side, his health and growth were typical.

But one Friday night, at the age of 5, that changed.

“Friday is pizza day at Christopher’s school and that’s what he had for lunch that afternoon,” remembers his mother, Palmira. “But that night he got violently sick, woke up in pain and had terrible diarrhea. It was frightening.”

The next day Palmira took Christopher to see his pediatrician. The doctor suspected Christopher might have been suffering from an acute reaction to gluten, so Palmira removed all gluten from her son’s diet. However, Christopher was still experiencing serious gastrointestinal distress.

The pediatrician then suspected that Christopher may have developed a sudden intolerance to lactose and suggested removing dairy from his diet. Unfortunately, Christopher remained in great pain and continued going to the bathroom almost hourly.

“Once food allergies were ruled out, the doctor was stumped,” Palmira says. “The pediatrician suggested Christopher see a specialist for some more in-depth diagnostic testing.”

After researching their options, the Padilhas decided to see Dr. Alejandro Flores at Boston Children’s Hospital in Boston.

Flores is highly regarded among pediatric gastroenterologists, but for the Padilhas, the 45 miles that separated their Worcester home from Flores’s Boston office made the trip a daunting one.

“At that point, Christopher was very sick and had to go to the bathroom almost constantly,” Palmira says.

Based on the results of a colonoscopy, Flores was finally able to give the Padilhas a name for the mystery illness that had been plaguing their son: Crohn’s disease. Flores explained that Crohn’s is caused by an inflammation of the digestive tract and is typically treated with medication.

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Remembering one of Boston Children’s earliest liver transplants

Mick-4When Michael “Mick” Devlin was born in 1987, his parents were sure of two things: They loved him, and they would cherish every minute they had together because no one knew how many they had left.

Mick was born with ornithine transcarbamylase (OTC) deficiency, a genetic disorder that disrupts the liver’s ability to break down protein and eventually leads to a toxic build up of ammonia in the blood. It’s a very serious condition, and when Mick was born there weren’t many sustainable treatment options for OTC deficiency. Many children with the disease died.

Needless to say, when Mick’s parents Cathy and Michael held their newborn son and learned about his OTC deficiency, they were terrified. And while they didn’t know it at the time, their son would soon be one of the first children in New England to receive a successful liver transplant—a surgery that would eventually save his life, and the lives of thousands of children to follow.

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