Monthly Archives: November 2014

Charlie Loves Gymnastics

Charlie was invited to a gymnastics themed birthday party. “How fun!” I thought when we received the invitation. I wasn’t sure how Charlie was going to participate but I knew she would enjoy it.

The party was Saturday. Charlie was the smallest of the preschoolers that ran through the gym while the instructor set up mats. The other kids seemed bigger, possibly older, and had a more advanced skill set. To top things off, Charlie fell on her face before things even really began.

I assumed I would have to help Charlie participate. I was mostly wrong. After I helped her with hand over hand direction during the warm ups, I stood beside Charlie as she waited in line behind three other kids. In turn, each child ran down a mat, jumped on a trampoline, and performed a somersault on a sloped mat (all with the instructor and her assistant on stand by to help).

Charlie watched the kids before her and was ready for her turn. I said, “Go Charlie!” and held my breath. She ran down the mat, stepped up on the trampoline, jumped in place, moved to the sloped mat, and performed a somersault. Afterwards, she clapped for herself and ran towards me.

“Do you want to do it again?” I asked. ” ‘gain!” She yelled back.

I stood beside her in line, but it was unnecessary. Charlie seemed to understand the concept of the line and waiting her turn. When she was up front, she expertly raised her hand to let the instructor know she was ready. The instructor responded with a raised hand. I whispered, “Go!”

Charlie squealed with excitement the entire sprint down the mat. The instructor helped her on to the trampoline and off again after several jumps. Charlie decided to log roll instead of somersault down the sloped mat. Next, a low balance beam was added to the course. Charlie counted her steps on the beam as she held the instructor’s hand. Like before, she proudly ran back to me and blurted out, ” ‘gain!”

Charlie enthusiastically performed the routines over and over again. Each time she laughed, clapped, and squealed with excitement. She loved this party.

I found out afterwards that Charlie could attend a half hour class for five dollars. Today, we gave the class a shot.

Charlie enjoyed today’s class as much as the party. The instructor and her assistants seemed to understand where Charlie is skill wise and provided assistance as needed.

There was one little girl in her class whose mother worked intently with her on each element. She performed each step expertly and will probably go on to compete in gymnastics. That is most likely not in the books for us.

For me, my goal is simple. I wanted Charlie to have fun. If she learns to follow directions, learns to wait her turn, and grows stronger, that’s all a happy by-product.

I have a new favorite Sunday afternoon activity. It is watching Charlie squeal with delight as she runs towards her next tumble.

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I was unable to take pictures during gymnastics class because I had my hands full. This picture is a leaf she found while we were on a walk.

 

 

 


Break Status Update

This Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for all of this:

These pictures were taken on Monday. We played outside all day.

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And this video was taken today:

I have a lot for which I am grateful. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


Thanksgiving Break!

Even though Charlie is not in school, we are on a Thanksgiving break of sorts. Due to the holiday, Charlie does not have a single appointment next week. And… I’m pretty excited.

The question of what to do with our free time will certainly be no problem. I keep a running list in my head of things I’d rather be doing with Charlie than therapy or appointments. Sometimes, it’s all I can think about during therapy sessions.

The week following our break, we hit the ground running again. Charlie has an appointment to be casted for a new pair of orthotics. She walks mostly on her toes, trips over her feet, and falls quite a bit. Hopefully, the new orthotics will help with those issues.

Tonight, I look forward to the week ahead.

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Premature Babies: What You Don’t See

In honor of upcoming World Prematurity Day on Monday, I sent out the following tweet:

It was favorited and retweeted among those who celebrate World Prematurity Day. A prematurity poster toddler of sorts.

You see the before and after pictures. Maybe you think that prematurity is no big deal. These babies seem to turn out fine.

But, these pictures are oversimplifications… only part of a story. What is missing from these posts is everything in between.

What you don’t see is the three months she spent in the NICU perilously clinging to life while enduring countless painful tests and procedures.

What you don’t see is the long demoralizing walk from the ER to pediatrics upon her readmission to the hospital for complications due to her early arrival.

What you don’t see are endless therapy sessions and appointments with specialists in which we hope for and ask from her things that are arduous.

What you don’t see is how hard she worked for every little bit of progress.

What you don’t see is how, over two years later, prematurity continues to affect her life every single day.

What you don’t see are the babies who didn’t survive.

With all of the before and after pictures that are and will circulate in honor of World Prematurity Day, please keep in mind the things that you don’t see. Surviving premature birth is no small feat.


10 Things You May Not Know About Me And My Preemie Mom Life (Or Confessions Of A Preemie Mom)

Because it’s Prematurity Awareness Month, I feel like I should be writing more this month. However, my mind is rebelling against any attempts I make.  It’s more than writers block. I have a lot of negative feelings when I think of writing about premtaurity. Today, I thought I would just go for it and write those thoughts I have but don’t share.

1) I am not strong or brave. I am simply a mom. I do for Charlie what any mother in my position would do. We’ve been handed more challenges than some. Quite honestly, I feel like I’m barely holding it together.

2) I am so very tired. No, not the tired other parents complain about. The tired that comes from things like fighting regularly with insurance companies, cutting excessive red tape to receive services, attending daily therapy or doctor appointments, having the same conversation over and over again with different providers, and keeping up with medications, orthotics, and procedures. Add regular parenting responsibilities to everything and I end up exhausted.

3) I am jealous and envious of other moms. I know I shouldn’t compare. But, I’m human. The jealousy stems from the idea that they have what I, once, was supposed to have… a normal baby and toddler experience. I’m envious of those moms whose kids can walk well (and not fall flat on their face ending up with a bloody nose or busted lip) or whose kids can eat independently. It’s petty and small but I deal with a lot of envy and jealousy.

4) The little things mean so much. I have become accustomed to living a life of crisis response.  A good day in my world is one where we are all still standing afterwards. When someone holds the door for us or is nice to us for no reason, it makes my day. Depending on how my day is going (such as one of those days where everything goes wrong), it will sometimes make me cry.

5) Crying happens a lot. I cry for a variety of reasons. I cry for what we have lost. I cry because Charlie accomplishes something new. I cry because having a second child is not an option. I cry because I’m touched by someone’s kindness. I cry because I’m frustrated, angry, tired or stressed. It mostly happens in the car or behind closed doors but I do cry a lot.

6) My volunteer work is a form of self care. My volunteer work is my way of dealing with all the anger, hurt, and powerlessness I feel. I channel those things into the drive and energy I use for  my volunteer activities. It is rewarding to make something good happen.

7) Sometimes, I need to go outside. When I find myself losing it, feeling defeated, or at my wits end, I either go for a hike or sit outside with Charlie. Being outside relaxes and recharges me.

8) I can not stand platitudes. I want everyone to know that it’s perfectly acceptable to say, “I don’t know what to say.” or “Yeah, that sucks.” Platitudes rarely, if ever, provide the comfort they are meant to provide. Mostly, they tell me how disconnected I am from you and everyone else.

9) I neglect my own health care. My neglect ranges from small things to big things. This month, I had to go without an inhaler with an $85 co-pay. The past few months, I have been putting off going to the dentist to have a temporary bridge replaced and teeth pulled. For a couple of years (since I found out I was pregnant with Charlie), I’ve needed to have another spinal fusion.

The neglect is not because I’m lazy, cheap, or irresponsible. Mostly, it is because I don’t have the money for these things. I’m priced out. Additionally, while there really is not a good time for back surgery, it’s an impossibility when you have a small child with special needs.

10) Despite all of the things listed above, I’m grateful, optimistic, and hopeful… just not every moment or everyday. I’m grateful for everything we have such as a home, food, and Charlie. I try to see the things we have or could do rather than what we don’t or can’t. I’m hopeful that either I will adjust to this life, Charlie will overcome her challenges, or both.

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Time For Class

On Friday, Charlie and I spoke to a public policy class at the social work program from which I graduated. It was my first time speaking to a class about public policy. Some things went well and there are some improvements I can make in the future. I hope the students went away with something useful from our talk.

I left so hopeful and inspired. These students were bright, compassionate, creative, and full of energy. They asked great questions and had many good ideas.

As usual, Charlie was the star of the presentation.

Today, we attended a birthday party for a good friend’s two year old. During the party, I watched the other kids eat. I realized we have so far to go with feeding. The seven month old at the party managed biting, chewing, and swallowing better than Charlie does.

I see how far Charlie has come and dare to think we are on our way to being finished with preemie life. But then, I see her with peers and realize how far behind she continues to be. It’s a reality check of sorts.

Although, this time it wasn’t upsetting or terribly discouraging. It was a moment of, “Oh, we still have a ways to go.”

Maybe, I’m making progress too.

Charlie high fived her dad after he bowled a strike.

Charlie high fived her dad after he bowled a strike.

 

 


This Year’s Prematurity Awareness Month and Me

Last year, I wrote a post a day for Prematurity Awareness Month. On Prematurity Awareness Day, I wrote a post titled “Why Have Prematurity Awareness Day (or Month)? This year, I’ve stared at a blank screen for nights. I tell myself that I’m waiting for a muse of fire.

If the truth be known, I’m sick and tired of prematurity. Two and a half years after Charlie’s early arrival, not a day goes by that it does not impact my life in some way. Additionally, I think about it several times a day.

No, I’m not obsessive. It’s just that my life revolves around prematurity.

For starters, I am constantly problem solving with doctors, therapists, nurses, and pharmacies. Then, there is the hassle of social services. Charlie’s medicaid waiver should have been decided months ago. Plus, the insurance company likes to waste my time with automatic denials or by providing misleading information. That’s just the obvious stuff.

Prematurity creeps into my “regular” parenting life. If I hear a cough, I cringe and make a quick escape with Charlie. No need to challenge those preemie lungs. Feeding… oh goodness… let’s not get into feeding. During play, I watch to see if her pincer grasp is improving, if a heel strike will miraculously appear while she’s walking, and if she favors her left side as usual.

Currently, I’m stressed about Charlie’s upcoming MRI because it has to be performed under sedation with all the risks it entails. Additionally, I’m trying to schedule her new AFOs (yes, she’s being prescribed orthotics AGAIN) before the end of the year since our deductible has been met. On top of it all, meal time is a juggling act of mentally calculating her caloric intake while coaxing her to eat.

Truly, I think about prematurity many times a day. My brain refuses to contemplate it further and my thoughts about it have been tapped out.

But, that’s why I need to write about it. If, for anything, so that our story is told.

So that people don’t make the mistake of thinking that preemies are just small babies. So that people don’t believe that babies come home from the NICU and are suddenly “fine”. So that people know that some preemies don’t ever catch up and some never come home.

We can do better.

For example, we can fund more research, lobby for better health care policies, and educate more people. By doing so, we can improve the lives of these babies and of parents like me.

I’m very hopeful about Charlie’s future, but I’m tired of prematurity. Everyone else should be tired of it too. Let’s do something about it.

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Halloween Weekend Summary

This was Charlie’s first Halloween trick or treating. During her first Halloween, we were in isolation. For her second Halloween, we took her to collect candy at Target because she was unable to walk. This Halloween was her first going door to door and she loved it.

Charlie and her dad pre-game before the office Halloween party.

Charlie and her dad pre-game before the office Halloween party.

Thursday night was like training for Halloween. Charlie’s dad’s office had a Halloween party. She dressed in her Elmo costume (which she picked out), decorated a pumpkin, and learned to trick or treat at the cubicles.

The employees also had a costume contest. There was someone dressed up as a scary blood covered wolf with a plastic chain around his neck. Charlie kept waving to him and saying, “Hi doggy!”

The actual night of Halloween, we went to a friend’s neighborhood. Trick or treating in our dark mountain neighborhood is not the safest of ideas. Our friend’s daughters joined us (and helped) as we took Charlie door to door for the first time.

Charlie made her way up the first porch steps (with help) and stood patiently while the homeowner answered the door. When the door opened Charlie exclaimed, “Snacks please!”

By the next house, she relearned to say “Trick or treat”. Now, she blurts it out repeatedly whenever she hears something that sounds remotely close to it.

Halloween turned out to be much more fun than I had anticipated.

The next day was the first day of November or as my news feed reminds me, Prematurity Awareness Month. My next post will address the month long observance.

When Elmo met Pooh.

When Elmo met Pooh.

 


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