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Sunday, September 29, 2013

Buenos Aires Birth Day: 2013 Edition

When our daughter was born in February, 2011, I posted an update on the pregnancy and birth experience in Buenos Aires. It's time for the same update, 2.5 years later and a very different experience to tell.

The whole pregnancy and birth were still very good experiences, and the two pregnancies were pretty parallel until the birth itself. The biggest difference in the pregnancies is that this time around we had local insurance, as opposed to last time when all of our appointments were paid in cash and then reimbursed through our US insurance as an out-of-network claim. It's hard to find a good doctor that you connect with and trust, so even though my OB didn't accept our local insurance, we stayed with him - Dr. Juan Carlos Proccacini, who works out of Sanitario de la Trinidad, Cervino 4720, Palermo. To maximize our coverage, we still paid in cash at all of the regular pregnancy appointments (and then submitting them for reimbursement in the US) but all additional appointments; the blood work and other analysis, we had done at the Hospital Aleman since it is the closest hospital to us that accepts our local insurance.  This is a great perk of having local insurance, for the vast majority of routine procedures and appointments, all you have to do is flash your little card and no money needs to change hands.


  • The appointment schedule for my pregnancy with Alex was the same as with Gretchen until we hit 33 weeks.  Since Gretchen arrived at 36 weeks my doctor wanted to play it safe and start weekly monitors early. This was an ironic twist since Alex waited until almost 40 weeks exactly before deciding to join us.
  • I also started weekly non-stress tests (in Spanish, monitoreo) at 33 weeks. Each week I brought the results to my doctor's appointment, and each week he said "I'll see you next week".  Until 39 weeks...
  • I decided against the birth classes this time around, I retained enough information from the first time around that I didn't need to take the full on class. I did, however, go to meet with the midwife because 1) She didn't end up attending my birth with Gretchen, her replacement did, she was on vacation and 2) my Spanish is still at a point where, under stress, I wasn't sure she could understand me.  I wanted to make sure she knew my name, my face and the fact that I am not great at articulating myself in a second language.
The Hospital:
  • Through our local health insurance, we obtained a "prescription" for birth at 35 weeks from my OB, submitted it to the insurance company, and then received a pre-approval paper to show at check-in. This allows the hospital to anticipate our arrival, and made check-in a 10 minute process as opposed to the seemingly endless process we went through in 2011.
  • With this pre-approval, we had a single room - but not the suite we had last time around. This was just fine for us, plenty of space considering that we didn't have the parade of visitors that the rest of the maternity wing seemed to employ. The biggest differences were that we didn't have a choice of daily menu items, no daily newspaper and no mini-bar.
  • The check out process was still really slow, but we realized that it was due to my doctor not signing a check out order until after 2:00pm. I was ready to leave around 10:00am, after 3 nights away from home, I was more than ready to get back to my own bed (even if my doctor preferred me to stay for an additional night).  It was fine once I knew what time to expect to leave, but this was not made clear to me.
  • There is a new process to register birth in Argentina, each hospital has a central location where the original documents from the birth are sent (the birth certificate) and you can either call or go online to request an appointment. The location for the appointment is dependent on the hospital where you delivered and needs to be started within 45 days of the birth - I will write more about this new process as we work through it.
The Birth:
  • I had been having contractions for a number of weeks (perhaps months...) but on Thursday night they were more regular than before. I started keeping track, and sure enough, the contractions were 5 minutes apart for an hour, then two. I called the midwife, we agreed to wait another hour to see if they kept progressing. After another hour, we decided to head to the hospital (meeting her there at 12:15am, not the most ideal timing...). 
  • Our plan was to have our beloved empleada, Candy, stay with Gretchen for the first night after the birth, she was our first responder. I was not convinced that we were going to check in to the hospital, so we woke Gretchen and brought her to the hospital with us.
  • We ended up checking in to the hospital, calling Candy to meet us there and bring Gretchen home, and take solace in knowing that by then end of September 20th, we would have a baby boy!
  • I will cut past the dramatic part, but after a number of unsuccessful hours of pushing we were not any closer to having a baby, my doctor made the decision to go ahead with a cesarean birth. Despite what I have heard about Argentine doctors, I do not in any way feel that this was a decision made for convenience, I feel that he was making the best decision for me and my baby. I know that the cesarean birth rate is quite high in Argentina, somewhere around 35% (slightly higher than the US, at 30%), but I feel that it was a necessary measure. I think the most important factor is having a trusting relationship with your doctor, this is the only foundation for feeling secure in their decision-making.
  • After a c-section, I was offered to stay in the hospital four nights, though we requested going home after the third night.  Jon spent one night in the hospital, but then we wanted to be sure Gretchen didn't feel left out so I spent the other two nights alone with Alex.  This was a good choice for us, but after 3 nights we were ready to reunite as a family.
Though it certainly wasn't what we were expecting as we packed up for the hospital late Thursday night, we are so happy to have a healthy little boy join our family. The biggest lesson for me is that no two births are the same, as no two children are the same, and the most important factor is that we did everything possible to provide for a safe birth. At the end of the day, that is all that matters.  

And look at this little peanut! Such a looker! We're loving getting to know our new little guy.
Look at all of that thick, black hair!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Bienvenidos, Alexander Thomas!

We've had a busy week!  Please help us welcome our newest addition, Alexander Thomas!  
8lbs 4oz, 19.6 inches - just look at that face! 
This little bundle was born at 5:52am on September 20, 2013. 

He entered the world in his own style, not taking any cues from his big sister's birth. Such a handsome little guy, we are thrilled to finally meet him!

Such a happy, proud Daddy!

Big sister Gretchen was great, after being awakened in the middle of the night to come with us to the hospital, she slept well, had a fun day at home with Candy and then came to visit her baby brother. Lucky for her, Alex brought with him presents for her - and to sweeten the deal, they were Dora-themed presents!

A mix of nervous and curiosity, she has been great and is already making a fantastic big sister!

Welcome to the newest porteƱo, a perfect addition to our little family!  We cannot wait to get you home and begin life as a family of four!

And now we get to start the paperwork process to make you official! (More on that to come...)

Saturday, September 14, 2013

M&Ms: Potty Training Your Kids Since 1980

Depending on who you ask, children start potty training anytime from 18 months to 3+ years.  We started looking into the "gear" for potty training right around Gretchen's 2nd birthday, and in all honesty, we haven't had much use for any of it until very recently.

Through a few different visitors' trips, we have acquired the Baby Bjorn Potty Chair and the Arm & Hammer Secure Comfort Potty Seat, along with several pairs of kiddy underwear, in Minnie, Dora and Day of the Week theme. We also bulked up on Kirkland's moist flushable wipes to add to our baby shipment, which was a fantastic suggestion by an anonymous source - in case they don't want to advertise their first-hand knowledge of the product. Anyone who has purchased toilet paper in Argentina will know that these wipes are your best friend - paper products here leave a bit to be desired.

Once we started collecting all the gear, we asked for tips from folks that have gone through potty training before - namely our parents. The response was universal: We used M&Ms.  Seriously, everyone we asked has used M&Ms as a reward when their kids went on the "big potty". This should be on some sort of ad campaign for the candy-coated treat, and now we can add our names to the believers - it really works!

During the late July "winter" break of jardin, I was on a mission to have Gretchen potty train before baby brother joins the family. This determination lasted about a day.  She was completely uninterested, and I realized that we were going to spend the majority of the 2-week break sitting on a potty. Jon and I resolved to put potty training on hold until after the baby, though if Gretchen ever asked to sit on the potty, we were happy to oblige.  She asked, maybe 2 times in August and we scrounged up some sort of chocolate treat to give her as a reward. Then September came and one Wednesday night we were in the kitchen making dinner and she said she wanted to sit on the potty.  Success!  She did it again on Thursday and Friday night, but had no interest in going at any other time during the day. Saturday - a week ago today - we had some friends over and Gretchen witnessed her 3 year old buddy say that he needed to use the potty.  She wanted to use the potty too, and she did.  Then she did again.  Then we bought M&Ms.

The deal is, if she goes #1 she gets 2 M&Ms, the payment doubles for #2 - the coveted FOUR M&Ms! As of Monday afternoon she has been in big-girl undies all day, as of Thursday she's been in them at night too.  No accidents yet.  She is PLOWING through the M&Ms.  She talks about them all day.  "I get TWO M&Ms today!" "I need FOUR M&Ms, Daddy!", it's amazing! The M&Ms are the perfect way for her to see direct positive results, and she knows exactly what to expect when we give her a reward. The hardest part of the whole thing is keeping Jon and I from raiding the M&M stash.

I hesitate to say that this is the whole of our potty training experience since it has been so seamless, but Gretchen is doing an amazing job. We are so proud of our girl, sneaking in a last minute big girl step before baby brother arrives! It teaches us that there are many times that we should just follow her lead - and be sure to keep M&Ms on hand.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Ode to Pink Giraffe, Green Ticker

Gretchen has always been a good sleeper.  She goes to bed without complaint, she wakes up happy and alert, she still naps like a champion daily. Jon and I plan on using many of the same resources with baby #2 that we used with Gretchen; the swaddle blanket, the pacifier, bottle feeding before bed, with full awareness that what works for one child is not guaranteed to work for another - but hopeful that we were doing something right.

It got me thinking, I need to commemorate two of the most important constants in our daughter's life, Pink Giraffe and Green Ticker, one of which has already been retired.  

Pink Giraffe is a super soft little blanket with a precious baby giraffe head by the brand Angel Dear. This fantastic little lovey was given to Gretchen by our friends Alex and Carly, and it has become a bedtime staple.  It started out as the way to keep Gretchen's busy hands settled after she grew out of the Miracle Blanket (where her hands were straight-jacketed inside her cocoon), then it grew to be a comfort and to this day she will hold and rub the blanket between her fingers while she sleeps.  I tried to purchase a backup Pink Giraffe during one visit to the US, I purchased the far-inferior Brown Giraffe (the same blanket, but in brown).  He is an emergency-use-only backup for when Pink is in the wash. Gretchen doesn't even give him the time of day otherwise, poor guy.

Green Ticker is a Playtex pacifier, one that I chose at random to register for and now is apparently the most rare pacifier out there.  She has always used a pacifier to settle and sleep, but since she could stand we have limited the pacifier to be used only when she's going to sleep. Though we had a plethora of pacifier colors and varieties, this particular Playtex type - in the color green - has been the only acceptable version for awhile now.  I should mention that in my family growing up we called pacifiers "tickers" (as does most of my extended family) even though I have no idea where the name came from (maybe the ticking sound it makes when in use? I'm stretching for an answer here...). 

We attribute some of her readiness to go to bed at night to her desire to be reunited with these friends. At night, we walk into her room and she asks for "Pink Giraffe, Green Ticker" which melts my heart. Sometimes she'll joke and say "Pink Ticker, Green Giraffe", which provides belly-laughing hilarity. 
A few months ago, Green Ticker acquired a hole, probably due to Gretchen's full set of teeth, and he went into retirement.  This went over surprisingly well with little G, she didn't cry or argue, but moved on to Pink Ticker, Pink Giraffe.  We floated the idea of no ticker, and she was not on board. She will now explain to people "Green Ticker go away because I bite it, it get a hole" and then show how she chomps her teeth together.  

On my second attempt to purchase a back-up Pink, again there were none to be found, I bought a pink horse version of the blanket.  Immediately, Brown Giraffe was pushed into 3rd place and "Casey" (named after my mom's horse that Gretchen fell in love with) is now an additional nighttime staple.  So now, we have a routine, after brushing teeth and getting ready for bed, we get Pink Giraffe, Pink Ticker out of hiding, Gretchen holds onto them during storytime and put Casey in the crib (Pink is still a clear favorite).  When we're ready to say goodnight, inevitably, Pink goes on one side of her body, Casey goes on the other and the three of them are tucked in together.  It's precious.  

Even more heartwarming is when Gretchen saw the blue hippo and green frog blankies that we bought for Baby Brother (we should buy stock in this Angel Dear company...), she immediately recognized that they are for her brother, and put them in his crib - where they wait patiently for his arrival.  

We are now down to 2 backup tickers, and debating whether we just wait for them to all get holes and not replace them or send some to our parents to bring down on their meet-the-baby trips.  At this point, these little guys bring Gretchen so much peace, and equate to such wonderful night's sleep for everyone that it would be hard to say good-bye to our beloved friend, Ticker. Regardless of color.

Sweet dreams!