Category Archives: Premature Birth

Three

10476503_10102390539586379_4833958231860515447_n_edited_editedI thought about how to wrap this up for a week. I’ve already written about what I’ve learned and the meaning I didn’t find. Additionally, I’ve written about losses, changes, guilt, hope, awe, and grief. There are 395 posts including this one.

I think I’m comfortable ending here because I’ve said what I wanted to say. Plus, it’s not easy to write with a toddler screaming at me. (Wow, do I miss those long, frequent naps she used to take.)

This blog is the beginning of my parenting story. It is a chronicle of Charlie’s early start. I wrote it for me. I needed to connect, to vent, to make sense of the complex messy emotions, and to document whatever progress came. Thank you to my readers for coming along for the ride.

After Charlie’s birth, we fell behind and no longer fit into the “normal” world. Instead, after much grief, we made our own world. We played outside, made music, climbed, danced, laughed, and picked at food together. Maybe, one day we will catch back up to everyone else. During the course of this blog, I’ve learned to be OK with that “maybe”. I have begun to find peace.

11267762_10102403319834659_1155533460364652965_n_edited_edited_editedIt’s been a lengthy three years. From which, the theme that overwhelmingly stands out is gratitude. No, I’m not grateful for prematurity. Let’s face it, prematurity sucks.

Despite my complaints, I know how lucky I am. I’m grateful for the people who touched my life. I’m pleased to have found what I need even though I didn’t get what I wanted. Most of all, I’m thankful for the privilege to parent Charlie. While I may have nearly cracked, she has been nothing but brave, strong, determined, and full of joy through it all.

Happy third birthday, Charlie! It has been nothing short of extraordinary. I am honored to be your mommy.

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Baby Clothes

Out of everything, baby clothes have held a special place in my parenting world. Not only did Charlie’s birth entail numerous losses, but there were very few parenting choices that I got to make. What Charlie wore was the only thing that could still go the way I had imagined it when I first got pregnant. I clung to my idea for her wardrobe fiercely.

Anytime Charlie out grows a size, I pick out the clothing pieces that mean something and place them in a drawer. The pieces in the drawer will be incorporated into a quilt one day. The rest of the clothes get dumped into a trunk in the basement and forgotten. Each time I add to the trunk, I tell myself that I will deal with it at a later date.

You may wonder how clothes can mean something. Also, you may find yourself asking why I needlessly store (OK, hoard) baby clothes in the basement.

I will begin with the easy question. Many of Charlie’s old clothes are significant to me because they have important memories attached.

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The last day she wore her “Sweet On Mommy” onesie.

For example, there is the preemie sized onesie she wore in the NICU that said, “Sweet On Mommy”. Each time she donned it, I marveled at the fact that I was the “mommy” it was referring to.

Also in the drawer, there is a size zero to three month sleeper with pink cats. One of my husband’s coworkers gave it to us the week Charlie was born. I remember when I first saw it. I held it up and couldn’t imagine my baby ever being big enough to fit in it. The day came during the week of the presidential election. I tried it on her after a bath and sobbed because it finally fit.

In fact, I was still crying when I investigated a knock at the door. I opened it to find Obama supporters who were canvassing the neighborhood in an effort to encourage votes. I am sure they wondered what the blubbering lady carrying a baby was about.

These are the kinds of clothes that occupy the quilt drawer. In the not too distant future, I will make a quilt using these clothes. Additionally, I plan on sewing the patches I’ve collected at each state park on to the quilt.

I don’t think I ever had a plan for the clothes in the basement. I wanted to donate them. But, I needed the donation to mean something to me. I knew it was not simply a matter of dumping giant garbage bags at the local Goodwill. Those weren’t just any baby clothes. They were Charlie’s clothes. They were my solace. They deserved better. But what?

This week, Preemies Today put out a request for gently used preemie and newborn sized clothes for a NICU baby shower this Sunday. I decided this was it. I was ready. It was time to deal with the clothes.

Tonight, I sorted through the clothes and selected my donations. (Basically, anything in the requested sizes that didn’t carry a significant memory and wasn’t stained.) It felt like an archaeological excavation. Each piece of preemie and newborn clothing was like an artifact from a lifetime ago. I shuffled around my selections for the quilt drawer and washed what was to be donated.

These clothes have served us well. It’s time for them to comfort another NICU family. And, perhaps, become a memory worth saving.

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Almost Three Years In

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Charlie, ten days old

My husband and I are almost three years into our journey of parenting a preemie. A short amount of time that feels like forever.

In anticipation of the upcoming Parents of Preemies Day, I’ve been asked to write about what prematurity means to us today. The abridged answer? It’s complicated.

You see, currently, I’m angry at prematurity. My anger flows in waves.

At first, I was angry that prematurity nearly stole my first and only child’s life. Then, I was furious because of the long term repercussions it has on her life (CP along with speech and feeding delays). That fury was followed by outrage due to the complexities and strain placed on my family life by having a preemie. Now, I’m irate because it extinguished my hope for having another baby.

But, I’m not only angry.

Despite the anger, I feel incredibly lucky. I am fortunate my baby survived her early arrival. I’m thankful that she exceeded doctors’ initial expectations. I’m grateful for the imperfect and unconventional life we have as a family.

However, I’m saddened.

I mourn the pregnancy I didn’t have (mine ended at twenty six weeks). I lament the typical newborn and toddler experience that was taken from me (we spent over 100 days of her first year in the hospital). I grieve the second baby who will never be.

On the other hand, I’m hopeful.

I’m optimistic that one day we will finally leave all the therapy, specialists, and orthotics behind. I believe that she will one day “catch up” to her peers. I look forward to possibly adopting in the future.

The preemie parent club is a club I wish I didn’t belong too. Even though there are other members, it is a lonely journey. I find it difficult to relate to other non preemie parents because in my world five pound newborns are huge and intake is measured in mL. I feel disconnected from the moms I see in my everyday life. A trip to Target usually involves picking up a prescription rather than coffee or shopping. Most parents claim that time flies. However, I’ve found it creeps by slowly while waiting for another appointment to begin or striving for that next elusive milestone.

IMG_2011As it turns out, I’ve found no meaning in prematurity. To me, it is a collection of emotions such as sadness, anger, grief, rage, loneliness, gratitude, hope, and, most importantly, love. Love is what keeps us from falling apart and helps us find joy in our everyday.

Being a parent of a preemie is not the life I’ve planned for or chosen but, I love it nonetheless. Though the journey is tough, I’m so grateful that she’s here. I can’t imagine our lives without her.


Spoiled Brat

Wow, did I get hit by a nasty stomach bug. Charlie got it too. But luckily, she was only sick for about a day. We did have to cancel weekend plans I had been looking forward to. But, such is life.

This recent stomach bug required several trips to my doctor for things like anti nausea medicine, IV fluids, a different anti nausea medicine, and so forth. After I had beaten the bug and was at my follow up visit, I asked my doctor a bunch of questions about preeclampsia.

My 36 birthday is this week. In my husband and my storybook version of life, we are supposed to have two kids by now. I know I decided a while ago that we were stopping at one. But, in the back of my mind, I’ve kind of clung to a little hope that there would be some way that I could safely have a full term pregnancy. I hadn’t fully let the hope go.

My doctor was kind of my last hope. He’s knowledgeable and I trust his judgement fully. He’s also a little more open to my unconventional ideas than most. He helps me problem solve. If anyone was going to give a thumbs up to pregnancy, it would be him.

I asked him for his thoughts on the matter. He told me what I already knew: Another pregnancy is not a good idea for me.

He continued on to say something like “Adoption is a beautiful option…” My response was to check out. I started babbling incessantly and nonsensically just to cover up the heart break that had just happened. I was barely able to concentrate to discuss the refills I needed. After the appointment, I headed straight to my car still reeling from the blow.

Now, I know absolutely, for sure… that’s it for me. We are done having kids. End of story. Hope extinguished.

I’m not dealing with it well.

I want to cry. I want to scream that it’s not fair. I’m angry at the world for drawing the short straw.

Then, there is the guilt. I know how fortunate I am. I know how much I have. So, I feel guilty for feeling sad, angry, and pretty much anything other than joy.

Plus, I find myself bitter with envy and jealousy of the strangest things. A KeepEmCookin tweet popped up in my feed and my thought was “At least, they made it to bed rest!” How terrible is that? I am ashamed of myself.

Finally, there is the confusion. Why does it hurt so much? Honestly, having my own biological child is not that important to me. I could adopt and be as equally fulfilled. But, being done stings to the core for some reason.

Emotionally, I’m very much like a spoiled brat right now.

Life is not fair and we don’t always get what we want. By now, I’m well aware of that. Currently, I’m trying to figure out what’s next for my family. How do I make this OK for me?


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.

 

 

 


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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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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We’re Not Supposed To Be Here

“We’re not supposed to be here” has been my pouty mantra since around the end of the summer. A therapist or a doctor will tell me how well Charlie is doing. I respond along the lines of, “She is… but this isn’t how it was supposed to be.” I remind them of the empty promises from the neonatalogists and the unfulfilled prophecies.

Charlie wasn’t supposed to need all the specialists or therapists. She was supposed to “catch up” quickly and easily. This wasn’t supposed to be our life.

I know, it’s small, it’s petty, and, even childlike. But, I have been sulking. It’s not one loss I’m learning to cope with but countless other losses that unexpectedly hit with a crushing blow. The proverbial roller coaster ride never really ended for us.

The past two and a half years have been very long and feel like a completely different life. So much so, that when I visit places I lived prior to Charlie’s birth it feels like I’m visiting a dream. I know the place well but I feel like it was someone else’s life that I remember occurring there. Not mine.

After dinner, I took Charlie to get her non dairy frozen ice cream substitute. She loves it and will devour it with a smile on her face.

I sat there and watched her gorge while totally focused on the treat in front of her. During the moment of silence, I thought about how much we laughed today, the new word (“funny”) she said, and all of the fun we had together. Then, it hit me.

We’re not supposed to be here.

At least, she’s not.

They thought she wouldn’t survive her delivery. Yet, she was gobbling ice cream in front of me.

I don’t know where we are supposed to be. I suppose I will have to make it up and chart the course as we go.

However, today, the phrase “We’re not supposed to be here” transitioned from a phrase roared in frustration, anger, desperation, and exhaustion to one whispered in breathless awe.

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Arizona

Very late last night, I returned from a trip to Arizona. You may wonder why I went to Arizona. I attended my second Share Union.

So now, you may want to know what the heck is ShareUnion. Words do not do ShareUnion justice but I will do my best to try and explain. It’s an amazing opportunity many of you may be missing out on.

Some parents (myself included), feel that while in the hospital or NICU there is a lot of support from social workers and staff. However, once you journey beyond the institutional setting that support is often difficult to find. That is where Share Your Story steps in.

One of many March of Dimes programs is the website Share Your Story. It is a website for NICU parents, special needs parents, parents who have lost a baby, parents of babies with birth defects, parents who have lost a pregnancy, people struggling with infertility, parents to be with high risk pregnancies, parents of babies born sleeping, and pretty much anyone else dealing with a birth related issue.

The site offers several features. There are forums where topics are discussed and questions are asked. Additionally, users can start a blog. Worried that you aren’t a good writer or fret because you don’t know how to write a blog? Don’t. The blogs on the site are different than other blogs. No one on the site focuses on things like style or grammar. The interface is not complicated. Your message and what you have to say are the important things. You can help other parents just by participating in the blogs or forums.

Plus, there is a photo gallery to post pictures. I’m sure I’ve forgotten many other features. I encourage you to visit the site and peruse it. You are bound to find something useful.

Back to ShareUnion:

In simple terms, ShareUnion is the annual gathering of the Share Your Story site’s users, lurkers, and want to be users. However, it is so much more than that.

Everyone gets something different out of it, this is what I get:

Since Charlie’s birth, I have lost my connection with the world around me. I don’t share in the common experience of those around me in my everyday life. I feel like I don’t belong and hardly anyone truly understands my world. That is not the case at ShareUnion. Most of the attendees are walking or have walked in my shoes or similar shoes.

Also, I have lost my sense of safety since Charlie’s birth. I have anxiety daily over things I would not have given a second thought prior to when all this began. Each time I attend ShareUnion, I feel it is a step further in getting my feeling of safety back.

Finally, the moms who have lost babies can talk about their babies or the NICU parents can talk about their experiences openly. There is no social awkwardness or having to pretend that everything is OK. It is what it is and we help each other survive it. We celebrate our children’s lives.

The attendees have become like family to me. I don’t want anyone interested in attending to miss out because they did not know about it.

The ShareUnion gathering is free and includes sessions, speakers, and (delicious) meals. However, each attendee is responsible for transportation and lodging (having roomates cuts the cost significantly).

If you are interested in attending next year’s ShareUnion (sometime next summerish), get started on the site now. The more the merrier. I hate that all of us met this way but I’m so glad we did.

 


One Of The Many Reasons Parenting Magazines Are Not Relatable To Me

Maybe it was because last night I had one of those nightmares in which I was pregnant again. Or, it may be because I know too many women who have lost their babies. Whatever it is, I was turned off to find an article titled “How Social Media Is Giving My Pregnancy Anxiety” in my Twitter feed.

I’ve written before how I don’t relate to the articles in parenting magazines. I’ve had a distaste for them ever since a particular one repeatedly arrived unsolicited in my mail box to explain the exciting things occuring during my pregnancy long past the time my pregnancy was cut short.

I suppose I don’t find the cloth diaper or breast feeding debates interesting because I didn’t really have a choice in either (and I couldn’t care less what other people do). Despite Charlie doing well, I can’t pretend that I fret over what kind of preschool she should attend or the latest (and trendiest) toddler activity.

I wanted to give the author and the title the benefit of the doubt. Maybe the author was concerned for her pregnancy because of all the awareness posts regarding  premature birth and pregnancy complications. I clicked on the link hoping to find some mention of all that.

Nope. It was concern over whether her baby shower would be Pinterest worthy and the appearance of Facebook photos. Once again, another parenting article that I found to be not relatable in the very least.

I don’t understand the whole parenting magazine or website thing. Most of the articles I come across are of no interest to me. However, I do wonder if they would be more appealing had I had a healthy pregnancy and carried Charlie to term.

I simply want to enjoy the time I have with Charlie. One day, I will look back on this time as the best years of my life. I don’t need validation of my parenting ability or do I desire to be the best parent. Secretly, I think we are all messing it up in some way and that’s OK. But, you know what? To Charlie, I’m the best mommy there is and that’s what matters to me.

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Hello Elmo!

preemie hugsActivity two of the week completed! Yesterday, we made the pilgrimage to Busch Gardens so that Charlie could meet Elmo. The trip turned out to be everything I hoped it would be.

I was surprised there was so much for her to do. She saw the live show twice, met all the characters, rode several rides, played in a playground like area, and splashed on a splash pad type area.

There were a couple of moments I had to fight back tears. There are a couple of reasons why:

1) We are so fortunate Charlie is here to share in a day like yesterday (or any day) with us.

2)Charlie has worked and fought harder than I can possibly imagine. Nevertheless, she is full of joy, enthusiasm, and is almost always smiling. To see her have a day like yesterday was incredible.

It’s true, she probably won’t remember any of it. But, yesterday, her world was as magical as she makes my everyday.

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Specialty Clinic On The Horizon

On Wednesday, Charlie will make the two hour journey for her follow up appointments (she gets reassessed in several areas) with developmental pediatrics. I admit, I am a little nervous. The past couple of visits to the clinic did not go so well for us.

I realize we are lucky and Charlie is doing really well considering her extremely premature arrival. But, I can’t shake the feeling that we should be done with all this. I’m kind of like a little kid pouting and saying to myself, “We weren’t supposed to have this challenging of a journey.”

For some reason, it was easier for me to accept the long NICU stay than it is the long period it will take Charlie to “catch up”, if ever.

Sometimes, I think I should stop hoping for the end of specialty clinic visits, regular insurance phone calls, and numerous therapy appointments. Because I hope, each follow up with the developmental pediatrician feels how I imagine a prisoner must feel before a parole board. I see the progress Charlie has made and dare to think, “It won’t be long now until we are finished with this.”

However, my hopes are shot down when a new area of concern is discussed or limited progress is pointed out. Often, I knew of the issue beforehand. However, I had anticipated it wasn’t a big deal. Or, I assumed it could easily be addressed.

Additionally, I feel guilty and greedy for wanting more. We are fortunate Charlie is doing well. That should be enough. I feel selfish for desperately wanting her to “catch up”.

I am not sure what is going to happen on Wednesday. Maybe that is why I’m already anxious and thinking about it. I have my fingers crossed it’s going to be a good appointment.

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Charlie visited Skyline Drive this weekend.

 


I Didn’t Realize It Was Miserable

Thanks to the Parker Lee Project, Charlie received her first case of her new formula yesterday. It has only been a day since Charlie started her new formula but, I’ve already noticed a huge difference. I didn’t realize how miserable feeding had been for us until today.

Charlie has been learning to eat solids for over a year with limited success. Until yesterday, her major source of nourishment was from a partially hydrolyzed whey protein infant formula.

However, this posed two problems that we (her daddy and I) were aware of. First, the formula tasted disgusting so we had to get creative about disguising the flavor. Second, there weren’t enough calories in infant formula to satiate Charlie.  The formula had to be fortified with pretty much any food that flowed through a cross cut nipple.

Honestly, we had no idea what we were doing. But, as long as she continued to grow and gain weight everyone seemed happy with the approach. We (her doctors, her daddy, and I) hoped the spit up, reflux, and vomiting was something she would outgrow.

Feeding had become a complex process of guesswork and mixing of formula with food substances that Charlie was coaxed to eat. She was good about it. Better than I would have been.

But, there was a lot of spit up and occasionally she would vomit for what seemed like no reason at all. We constantly reminded anyone who played with Charlie, “Careful, don’t make her throw up!” Her crib sheets needed to be changed, at least, every two days due to spit up stains. This was our normal.

After her evaluation at the feeding clinic, we learned that Charlie has difficulty with chewing, trouble coordinating the movement of food with swallowing, a sensitive gag reflex, slow gastric emptying, poor motility, and a casein allergy. The gastroenterologist prescribed a specialty formula (a fully hydrolyzed whey protein pediatric medical food with fiber).

There has been a noticeable difference only a day after the switch to the new (and more appropriate) formula.

While it smells gross, Charlie readily eats the new vanilla flavored formula. There is no mixing or convincing her to eat. Plus, she hasn’t spit up or vomited since the introduction of the new formula yesterday morning. Her reflux has improved significantly.

I had no idea how stressful and awful Charlie’s feeding and GI issues were until they improved. It wasn’t until I felt an overwhelming sense of relief when feeding Charlie this morning that I realized how bad things were. I feel somewhat guilty for not making the realization and insisting that the issue be addressed sooner.

As a side note, I would like to inform my readers about The Parker Lee Project. Through the amazing work of the organization, parents in need of medical supplies can apply for the supplies (if available) free of charge. I’m grateful The Parker Lee Project supplied us with thirty days of formula (almost $1000 worth) while we wait for the paperwork to be processed with insurance and the durable medical equipment provider.

Additionally, those who have extra medical supplies that a child has out grown or no longer requires can donate them to this organization. Financial contributions are also appreciated.

preemie feeding

Charlie golfed a little on the Fourth.

 

 


NICU Reunion: Take Two

10492524_10101775114538109_8279231079749444152_n (1)We did it! Today, Charlie and I attended our second annual NICU reunion. Despite my reservations, it was certainly easier the second time around.

Charlie and I arrived and said our initial hellos. Then, I grabbed a seat out in the courtyard under the shade of a tree and watched from the sidelines as Charlie wandered around close by.

There were several children’s activities available but Charlie chose to obsess over the storm drain in the center of the courtyard. She laughed and clapped as she walked back and forth over the drain. Eventually, she found the mulch more interesting and occupied the rest of her play time by tossing it in the air.

Afterwards, we saw Charlie’s primary nurse. It was tough but I stuck to my promise that I wouldn’t cry this year. We talked while the other nurses passed around Charlie and doted over her. Charlie flirted shamelessly.

My friend graciously supplied this picture (and permission) for this post.

My friend graciously supplied this picture (and permission for its use).

Today, had a very different feel.  The memories and emotions were not as intense. However, the hospital food was just as bad as I remember it.

It wasn’t long before we had enough and it was time to leave. My NICU mom friend and her daughter joined us for lunch afterwards at a near by restaurant.

Overall, I’m glad we attended this year’s reunion. Last year, I was still reeling from the relatively fresh news that Charlie had bigger issues than expected. This year, I’ve figured out how to roll with what is thrown at us. And Charlie… well, she’s never given up and it shows.

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NICU Reunion Ahead

This weekend is Charlie’s NICU reunion. I think it’s supposed to be a happy event. However, I have mixed emotions.

Last year’s reunion was the first one Charlie and I attended. To be honest, it was tough. The walk from the parking garage to the hospital conference center was like a walk through a dream. The sights, sounds, and smells stir up so many emotions that the whole thing becomes really overwhelming.

It’s difficult to see the babies that were sicker than Charlie who are now so much further ahead. It’s hard to bring back the baby, that everyone thought would catch up by two, with noticeable delays.

Why go back? Why put myself through this? There are many reasons.

Gratitude is one reason. Our attendance at the NICU reunion is a way of saying thanks to the people who saved my baby and helped me. It’s incredible to see Charlie’s primary NICU nurse.

Another reason is the other NICU parents. I want to see the other parents who were there with me for the majority of Charlie’s three months. I want to know they are well.

The final and most important reason: It’s for me. I’m not going to let the trauma trump me. Each time I go back is an opportunity to process things further. It’s a chance to move ahead in my attempt to leave the trauma of her NICU stay behind me.

Ready or not, here we go… again.

A mommy and me selfie taken today during backyard play.

A mommy and me selfie taken today during backyard play.


The Countdown Begins

Sometimes when I’m around other parents, I feel like a puzzle piece that doesn’t quite fit with the rest of the puzzle. We do have the shared experience of being parents. But, that’s where the similarities end.

I’ve lost my connection with the common parenting experience. I read things other parents sometimes write and I wonder, “Who are these people? How is it possible we live on the same planet, the same country, or even the same state?”

When I’m out running errands, I hear other mothers talk. Their concerns are nowhere close to mine. For example:

For me, vaccines didn’t feel like an option. After spending three months around very young children who were critically ill, it seemed foolish not to vaccinate.

I hate that I know about the Durable Medical Equipment part of a health insurance policy, where the closest pediatric emergency department is, and about epo injections.

I can’t help but think a newborn over five pounds is big.

I don’t want my child to learn to read before kindergarten, be fluent in Mandarin, or become a musical virtuoso. I just want my child to learn to talk. Maybe one day, she will be able to tell me she loves me back.

Toilet training is way ahead of my map. Due to circumstances, we will toilet train much later than most. For the record,  I don’t think that wipe warmers are frivolous when a baby has sensory issues.

I don’t worry about organics, GMOs, or junk food. I would be thrilled to see my child chew AND swallow a bite of anything.

These are only a few of the disconnects. Premature birth has shaken my world to its core. Since Charlie’s birth, there has been only one time and place that I felt like I fit completely into a puzzle. It was at last year’s March of Dimes ShareUnion.

This year’s ShareUnion is just around the corner (in 85 days). Let it be noted, my countdown has begun.

I look forward to spending time with other parents who understand and possibly live in my world. There will be no talk of the “right” way to do things or perfection. Instead, there is understanding and encouragement.

I can’t wait to be in Phoenix in September. I would even walk if I had to.

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Ten Ways Life Changes After Having A Preemie

10 ways

1) You have acquired basic nursing skills. During my baby’s NICU stay I learned to give epo injections, insert an NG tube, read monitors, perform infant CPR, and various other skills. Many were required in order to take my baby home.

2) The smell of hospital food makes your stomach turn. With my stay on the high risk perinatal unit included, we have spent over one hundred days of Charlie’s first year in the hospital. I could happily live my life without ever tasting hospital food again. I don’t know why they serve it every year at the NICU reunion.

3) Sizes lose all relevance. Charlie fit into newborn clothes for three months after she came home from the NICU. At the age of two, she wears sizes twelve to eighteen months.

4) Simple questions become complicated. The questions that people generally ask new parents can’t easily be answered. It starts in the NICU with “When is he/she coming home?” Then it continues with questions like, “How old is your baby?” or “Are you breast feeding?”

5) You learn loads of medical terminology. You know what a physiatrist is. You understand what words and abbreviations like apnea, bradycardia, IVH, tachycardia, desaturation, bilirubin, CPAP, hematocrit, NEC, PVL, and ROP mean.

6) Baby showers are complex situations. Baby showers are emotionally loaded. If you are brave enough to attend one, you wonder how to socially appropriately join conversations about birth stories and pregnancy. All the while, you are trying to get over that feeling of being the elephant in the room (being the physical proof of one of the many ways a pregnancy can go wrong).

7) People constantly remind you how lucky you are. I realize we were lucky. We got to bring our baby home. However, there are days I don’t feel lucky. On some days, I feel like we lost. On those days, I resent people who feel the need to tell me how lucky we are. I wonder why people don’t have the urge to tell every mother of a newborn how lucky she is to have had a full term pregnancy.

8) Things are put into perspective. For me, facing the possibility of losing my child was looking my greatest fear head on. Everything else in comparison is small potatoes.

9) You almost become an expert on insurance policies. As much as insurance companies try to misguide you, you’ve managed to learn about automatic denials, appeals, DME coverage, and much more. You learn not to accept the first “No” as the answer. You fight and you fight like hell.

10) No accomplishment is ever small. I remember the date that Charlie first rolled over (January 27, 2013) and the date she took her first steps (January 7, 2014). She worked incredibly hard to reach these developmental milestones and nobody was sure that she would reach them. Every little thing, from tolerating food in her mouth to learning to wave, is a cause for celebration.

happy preemie

 


Preemie Babies 101: How A Preemie Birth Affected My Relationships

Today’s post can be found as a guest post on Preemie Babies 101.

My baby, Charlie, was born the day she reached twenty six weeks gestation and weighed a mere one pound eleven ounces. Where as most babies are greeted into the world amidst celebration, my baby entered the world to stunned silence. The shock and trauma of her early arrival not only stole the pure joy of what was supposed to be a jubilant event but, it (and the subsequent NICU stay) altered many of my relationships. Read more… 


But She’s Healthy Now, Right?

Last night, I made a quick trip to the store by myself. The cashier scanned the baby oatmeal and asked, “How old is your baby?” I told her that she just turned two. The cashier said she had a two year old and there is no way her two year old would eat baby oatmeal. I explained my baby was born at twenty six weeks and it complicates things. The cashier’s immediate response was to pose the question, “But she’s healthy now, right?”

I have no idea how to answer the question. Do I be polite and give her the answer she wants to hear? Or, do I use the moment to be truthful?

I want people to know that, despite everything, things are OK, her life has quality, and we are happy. On the other hand, there are still numerous specialists, therapists, and concerns involved in our daily life. She is not what many would consider “healthy”.

I want others to know that babies like Charlie don’t go home from the NICU and become immediately healthy. It’s a long, tough road and the end isn’t in sight for us.

At the very least, I don’t want to perpetuate the myth that all preemies catch up by two.

I suppose I could have ended the conversation by saying, “Yes, she’s healthy now” and left it at that. Instead, I answered with, “She’s getting there. She needs time and therapy. But, we are well.”

How do other parents of preemies answer this question?

She was very happy to find a baby pool in the yard this morning.

She was very happy to find a baby pool in the yard this morning.


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