Tag Archives: family

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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The Countdown

Today was Charlie’s last Early Intervention appointment ever. She has aged out of the program and is on to bigger kid things.

In a week, Charlie will be three. Over time, anniversary season has become easier for me. I remember the dates but I don’t obsess over them. Nor is anticipation or anxiety linked to the days. They come and go like most.

For example, I signed and dated a form. When I saw the date, I realized it was the anniversary of my admission to the high risk perinatal unit. After a few seconds pause, I went about my day and didn’t really think about it again.

While this time of year is definitely easier than years past, I haven’t escaped the emotion of anniversary season. My mood is pensive. Additionally, I find that I have little patience for non sense, people who are jerks, and life’s other irritations.

To cope with this, I’ve been avoiding crowds (even more so than usual) and focus my restlessness on yard work. I pulled weeds while Charlie played in her sand box. I trimmed bushes as she splashed in her baby pool. I assembled a wheel barrow when she napped.

It feels like twenty years since her birth and fifteen since I started this blog. It’s only a matter of days until Charlie is three and I hit publish on my final post.

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Charlie watches fish in the water.

 

 

 

 


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.


The Strangeness of Time

The feeding program evaluation went well. Charlie will attend the intensive feeding program this spring/summer. I should receive the dates any time now. SR Park Selfie

Charlie will be three soon.

Three. Years. Old.

It feels like it has been at least twenty years since she was born. Maybe, that is because of the seemingly endless infancy stage. For example, we finished regular late night feeds a few months ago, she continues to be formula dependent, and there is no end to diapers in sight.

Or, time could be dragging due to the monotony of a schedule packed with specialist and therapy appointments. Possibly, time crawls due to the high levels of stress and emotional exhaustion that accompanies micropreemie parenting.

Whatever it is, these last three years have felt infinite. When I look at NICU pictures or Charlie’s baby book, it feels like they are artifacts from forever ago. I barely remember my life before Charlie. My memories feel like someone else’s, not mine.  I have grown and changed so much that I hardly recognize myself. It has been a long three years. However, there is one aspect that has flown by… our Trail Quest.

The first time Charlie's thrown stone made it into the river.

The first time Charlie’s thrown stone made it into the river.

The point of the quest is to visit all thirty six Virginia State Parks. It started out as a way to survive lock down. Then, it evolved into an adventure Charlie and I shared. Sometimes, we include my husband, our dog, or both.

We have fun on our outings. We make memories. We relax. We play. We learn.

The other day, I sifted through our numerous photos from the parks. Everyone of the photos feel like they happened yesterday. I finally understand what people mean each time they say, “They grow up fast.”

Before looking through the pictures, her growing up felt anything but fast. The life depicted in the park pictures is how it was “supposed to be”. That is what I signed up for when I wanted to be a parent. The park visits are part of our “normal”.

Last Saturday, we visited our thirty third state park. We are getting close to the end and I’m surprised to find I’m a little sad. It was about the adventure and not the goal. I expected to feel nothing but celebratory when we finished.

Darn, those complicated emotions! Will the thirty sixth park be the end of our park obsession? No. One reason why is that the state park system is working to add more parks. I suppose we will never truly be finished. Plus, I’ve noticed that each park is a very different place as seasons change or as Charlie and her skill set grows.

From time to time, I mourn the loss of the pregnancy, baby, and toddler experience I didn’t have. But, I’m so grateful for the one I do have. I feel fortunate for every minute and second… even the painfully slow ones. Tyke Hike Pose Charlie attended a Tyke Hike (a hike for two to four year olds) on Saturday. These two pictures are from that hike. 1510901_10102280045337739_8432824672223672896_n


How Little Is Understood

Only a handful of people will ever fully understand any of the feelings involved in Charlie’s birth. That is why I became so annoyed with this article that repeatedly appeared in my social media feeds today.

Numerous moms lauded it and responded with proclamations of sisterhood. However, not one of my friends that have lost a child praised it. Nor, did I see any of my fellow micro preemie moms passing it on.

The thing is, unless you are a micro preemie mom, you can’t possibly understand what I’ve been through. Even then, our experiences may be vastly different. Similarly, I can’t pretend to understand what my friends who have lost a child have experienced.

Yes, you may be able to imagine a bit of the fear that I felt when Charlie made her early arrival weighing in at 790g. But, you can’t ever imagine what it was like for me to sit beside her isolette in silence for days, unable to touch her or hold her. I maintained the vigil simply because I did not want her to die alone.

You can’t imagine the loneliness I felt when people constructed excuses not to visit me and my baby because it was too hard or uncomfortable. You can’t imagine the powerlessness I felt as I pled for my newborn’s life.  You can’t imagine the heartbreak, the anger, the fear, the jealousy, the envy, and the profound sadness I felt during her NICU stay. Each day, I woke up and whispered to myself, “Please, don’t let anything bad happen today. Please, don’t let my baby die today.”

Eventually, she did come home but it was not over.

There was more heartbreak and sadness that came with diagnoses and countless unknowns. Every little milestone was and is celebrated like a hard won victory. Because, that’s what they are.

Most importantly, there are the bits that most likely didn’t cross your mind. My relationships with friends and family have changed. Some for the better while others were broken or abandoned. The stress rocks a marriage. I feel disconnected from a lot of the world around me. I no longer relate to most of my peers.

While I’ve come out of it stronger, more resilient, wiser, and braver, part of me is wounded. I lost my sense of safety. I fight through anxiety every single day. I am haunted by guilt. Periodically, I mourn the loss of my birth story, the loss of my child’s babyhood, and the loss of the imagined life we were supposed to have. I will never be the same.

Each time I see the article pop up in my feed, it’s a slap in the face. It minimizes my feelings and is dismissive of my trauma. Instead, the article shows me how little you do understand. I don’t care that you are a mom. You can not possibly know. You are not supposed to know.

Something horrible happened to me and some of my friends. There are some things so horrible that you can’t understand unless you experience them first hand.

For your sake, I hope you don’t… because you’re a mom.

 

 


Here Comes Santa Claus (and Charlie)

Charlie did really well with the MRI on Monday. By the afternoon, she was feeling well enough to bowl.

Despite my high level of anxiety, the procedure went smoothly. First, she was given an oral medication to help her relax. She acted silly, laughed excessively, and played peek-a-boo with anyone who made eye contact. Afterwards, she was wheeled back and given anesthesia via gas. According to the nurse, Charlie counted down with the anesthesiologist before falling asleep. Once she was asleep, an IV line was put in and her airway was protected.

The MRI took a little over an hour. She slept soundly while she recovered from the anesthesia. Afterwards, she was very thirsty and recovered quickly. We should receive the results soon. 1380601_10102086778655719_168898052343210150_n

That afternoon, she felt well enough to bowl for her very first time.

Our week has been going well as we get ready for Christmas. Today, Charlie visited with Santa for the first time ever. She was afraid of Santa the past two years and had no interest in meeting him.

Charlie was excited as she stood in line. However, when it was her turn to see Santa, she was not so sure about things. But, she held it together while her picture was taken. Mostly, she was pleased with the candy cane she received afterwards.

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Count Down To Christmas!

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We watched the Polar Express together.

Friday night, we bought and put up our very first Christmas tree. Charlie was an enthusiastic participant. In addition to the tree, I hope to make gingerbread houses with her between now and Christmas. This is the first Christmas that she is able to actively participate in holiday themed activities. We are enjoying the novelty of it all.

During the tree assembly, Charlie shifted her focus between helping and running around the living room. At one point she babbled, “Mommy, mommy, mommy, I love mommy.” as she ran towards me. Stunned, I asked my husband, “Did she just say ‘I love mommy’?” He confirmed that, indeed, she had said it. It was the first time she verbally said that she loved anything.

I am counting down to Christmas despite the busy December.

Last week, Charlie was measured for Supra-Malleolar-Orthosis (SMOs). They are a smaller and a more conservative version of the AFOs she wore last year. The orthotics barely rise above her shoe line.

The SMOs were prescribed to correct her pronated feet, help her walk better, and will, hopefully, discourage toe walking. If she continues to toe walk, she may end up with hinged AFOs. She will get and be fitted for her SMOs in the upcoming weeks.

Next week, Charlie has an MRI scheduled for which she will be sedated. The MRI does not bother me, but the anesthesia and accompanying intubation does. I am a nervous wreck. Logically, I know it’s not a big deal and she will be fine. However, emotionally, I am terrified. There is not much I can do but have faith in my logic and trust Charlie’s doctors and nurses.

Nevertheless, this week, I may try to squeeze in a little extra quality time.

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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.

 

 

 


Fall Festival And Time To Fatten Up

We started today off at a Fall Festival at Sky Meadow’s State Park. There was a chill to the air, low lying fog, and the ground was wet. That is precisely why we chose today to go. We knew the crowd would be sparse.

Our visit to the festival was a fun and relaxing time. Charlie was afraid of the baby cows in the petting portion, loved the blacksmith exhibit (as usual), liked picking her own pumpkin, played in the kids area, and enjoyed the food vendor. But her favorite part was a display set up about Chesapeake Bay water shed.

10639600_10101976504940129_9113146869104312045_nThe display consisted of a table with a model garden set up on top. The garden was complete with vegetables, plants, and plastic back yard wild life. Hanging off the side of the table was a sheet that displayed what is under top soil. Under the table (behind the sheet), was a crawl way in which there were plant roots from the above garden.

Charlie loved the crawl way.

The stress of the cows mooing (it was an ongoing sensory thing we had to contend with) and the excitement of all the activities tired her out quickly. We ended up leaving earlier than intended. I had planned on letting her play outside all afternoon.

Our early departure turned out to be a good thing because the home health nurse arrived at our house an hour before her scheduled time. She performed her usual rituals and listened to Charlie’s lungs to ensure aspiration pneumonia does not become an issue, checked her vitals, and weighed Charlie.

Charlie has been eating very well recently. So well, that I had expected a leap in weight gain. Unfortunately, Charlie lost weight according to the weigh in. Not a huge amount of weight, but none the less, weight loss (half a pound).

I have racked my brain in an attempt to figure out where the weight went. I made sure there weren’t any variables between weight checks. We used the same scale, naked weight, and so forth. The only reason I can imagine for her weight loss is that she is incredibly active. Energizer bunny active.

So it’s back on the phone with the feeding clinic for me on Monday. Once again, I have no idea what to do about Charlie’s feeding situation. Who ever knew something like feeding could be this complicated?


Blogtober Challenge Day 5: Favorite Fall Recipe

Today’s Blogtober Challenge almost stumped me. I suppose I could discuss the fine art of making green bean casserole. But, French’s Onion stole my thunder by printing the recipe on the back of their cans.

OK, I confess. I am not much of a cook. It’s not that I hate cooking or am particularly bad at it. It’s just that other than passing phases, I haven’t had much interest in learning to cook.

More often than not, we are a sandwich, salad, fruit, and veggie kind of family. We mix things up with nuts, seeds, and grains. We also grill out quite a bit.

Now that you are aware of my cooking ability (or rather, lack of), you will understand the ease of the upcoming recipe.

Lately, I have been all about soft foods as an attempt to get Charlie to eat solids. Some of her favorites are bananas, macaroni, rice, beans, hummus, avocados, mashed potatoes, tomatoes, grapes, kiwi, and toast.

Every once in a while I will cook up a quiche which she loves.

Before you are wowed, you should know that I use a recipe that is quick and easy. I can manage it with my limited cooking skills, small selection of available cooking utensils, and with Charlie clinging to one leg.

With out further delay, here is my response to the DC Ladies Day 5 Blogtober Challenge:

Quick and Easy Quiche

Ingredients:

  • Frozen 9 inch pie shell
  • 3/4 Cup of Milk
  • 5 Large Eggs
  • Add about two cups (total) of anything you want to cook up in the quiche such as chopped vegetables, precooked bacon, deli meats, cheese, precooked meats, and herbs.

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a bowl: beat eggs, beat in milk, and then mix in other selected ingredients.
  3. Pour contents of bowl into the frozen pie crust.
  4. Bake quiche on a cookie sheet on the middle oven rack for 45-50 minutes. The top should be brown and a knife inserted into the middle should come out clean.
  5. Once the eggs are cooked through out, remove from oven, cool to a safe temperature to consume, and enjoy.
Charlie eats her formula like a good eater.

Charlie eats her formula like a good eater.

 


I Scream, You Scream, Charlie Speaks For Ice Cream

I had a feeling it was going to be a great semester for Charlie’s speech. I knew in the second week that Charlie’s student therapist understood Charlie. As sweet and cute as Charlie is, she is highly energetic and difficult to focus (more so than most two year olds).  She can be a handful.

By the second week, the student therapist had learned to work with Charlie amazingly well. I was impressed.

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This is what part of the screen looks like when I watch from the observation room.

For most sessions, I sit in the observation room with the other parents and watch the session over the cameras on a computer screen. I did this initially in case Charlie became unruly or melted down. I wanted to be able to rescue the student therapist if needed. Now, I just sit there, read, and occasionally glance up at the screen.

What goes on during speech therapy? A variety of play activities. Each semester, I’m always impressed by the students.

If Charlie starts to run circles in the room, the student therapist patiently says, “Oh, you need to run? OK, lets go to the sensory room and bounce on the trampoline.” While Charlie bounces, the student therapist sings a song about bouncing with her.

In another activity, Charlie pretends to shop and has to ask for each item she wants to put in the cart. In Charlie’s favorite activity, she plays basketball where she has to ask for the ball and to be lifted up to the hoop with “Want up!”.

Last session, she played a considerable amount of time with a fake ice cream cone. I noticed it when I looked up at the screen. I thought it was odd because Charlie has never really had ice cream. She gets the non dairy stuff when we go get ice cream. Not the type of ice cream she was playing with while learning to say “ice cream”.

Later that evening, Charlie, Charlie’s dad, and I grabbed a quick bite to eat. After we were finished, we passed the yogurt store where Charlie gets her non dairy treat. She pointed and exclaimed, “W-want ice cream! Ice cream!”

I was stunned.

We actually understood what she was saying! How did she make the connection that her non dairy treat in a cup was the same as that creamy looking cone she played with earlier?

We were obligated to follow our rule. If Charlie uses her words to ask for something, she gets it. She got her non dairy version of ice cream that evening.

Overall, I’ve noticed significant improvement with her speech. Charlie experiments more with two word phrases such as “Bye daddy!” and we can understand more of what she says.

Feeding is finally moving forward as well. With the introduction of erythromycin, she eats more than two bites, doesn’t vomit, and her reflux is gone. She still has difficulty tolerating some textures and with chewing food. However, I’m relieved that she is no longer stuck.

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Family Photo

Today, we took our traditional family photo. The whole thing became an accidental tradition.

When Charlie was in the NICU, the nurses would occasionally mention that we should take our first family photo. I refused. Back when I had no control over anything and felt completely powerless, that was something I could decide. Our family would not be documented, for the first time, in that way or at that time.

Looking back, I realize it was silly. But, I still had fantasies of leaving the NICU and forgetting all about preemie life.

284071_10100763182517989_2042550072_nAfter Charlie had been home for a few weeks, we decided to go to an apple orchard about an hour away. We lived in the Fairfax area at the time which made the trip sort of magical. There were open fields, fresh air, apples one could pick off trees, and fewer people. Things we did not have where we lived.

Suddenly, I decided that this was the place I wanted to take our first family picture. I remember silly things about the moment. Such as how the guy who took our picture commented, “How old is that baby? Three hours?” I remember how we were staring into the sun and how I stepped on a rotten apple. My eyes are barely open in it. But, there you have it. Our first family picture.

A few months later, we decided the Fairfax area was no longer right for us. We left DC Metro suburbia for the mountains. The following apple season we discovered that we now lived about twenty minutes on the other side of the apple orchard. We returned, picked apples, and took this picture.

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I don’t remember too many details about the trip.

Now, here we are. Another year has passed and we are over that orchard. There are dozens where we live and the novelty has worn off. However, today, we made the pilgrimage simply to take the traditional picture.

It’s interesting how things have changed in two years. What was then fewer people is what we now consider crowded. The walk up that big hill (which was a challenge the first time) was a piece of cake because we spend a lot of our free time hiking. The biggest change of all, Charlie walked up the hill (with assistance) with us.

So here it is… this year’s picture.

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A side note: Kaia (our dog) is not in the picture with us this year. She is alive and well (and the best hiking partner ever). But, we went to other non dog friendly places after this picture was taken.


Where Things Stand With Feeding

While I was in Arizona last weekend, Charlie’s gastroenterologist left a voice mail. The upper GI showed Charlie has significant gastroparesis (delayed gastric emptying).

To get things moving, he prescribed erythromycin (an antibiotic that has a side effect which helps with motility) to be given twenty minutes before she eats.

So far, so good.

Finally, Charlie’s reflux is no longer an issue. Plus, she doesn’t vomit at night, her breath doesn’t smell like vomit, and she eats more than two bites of food. I hope this is the missing piece to the feeding puzzle (which also includes oral aversion and motor issues). Time will tell.

Today, she played in the backyard. She loves her car but she only knows how to make it go backwards.

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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.

 


Tag! You’re It!

10672263_10101929074406299_6421064225115772922_nTonight’s post is very brief because we have to be up before dawn tomorrow for Charlie’s Upper GI.

After today’s speech therapy (which went really well!), I took Charlie to a new (to us) park. Normally, when we go to the playground, I end up playing with Charlie. The other kids usually refer to her as a baby and show no interest in playing with her.

Today was different. Charlie played her very first game of tag! It was a big day in our world.

 

 

 


Plastic Toys

Today was the first day of speech therapy for the fall semester. Charlie is back to her four day a week therapy schedule. Summer was nice while it lasted.

Charlie attends speech therapy twice a week at a local university. It is much more affordable than private speech and has been more effective than EI. Since it is a teaching program, SLP students conduct the therapy session under the video supervision of an instructor.

Each semester, the student assigned to Charlie changes. Charlie met her speech therapist for the fall semester today. She did well with Charlie. I think this is a promising semester.

Afterwards, I took Charlie to Chuck E Cheese’s for dinner.

I think I’ve mentioned Charlie LOVES Chuck E and all things Sesame Street. The excitement of both things brings forth those elusive words. Activities that involve Chuck E Cheese or Sesame Street are frequently on our schedule.

If it’s timed right (off times when it’s empty), it’s a therapy dream. With minimal effort on my part, she can work on: sensory (loud noise, bright lights, motion from the rides), feeding, OT (put coins in slots, push buttons, work the toddler games), PT (builds strength pulling leavers, climbing up on rides, dancing), and speech (she mastered the “eee” sound by saying “Chuck E”).

This evening, Charlie and I went about our usual routine at Chuck E Cheese’s: we chit chatted with the manager while we ordered food (yes, the employees know us by now), we worked on feeding (the video distraction makes for longer feeding attempts), we watched and talked about the video loop (Charlie: Doggy! Me: That’s right! What’s the doggy doing? Is the doggy singing? Do doggies sing?), we danced (with Chuck E and to the video loop), we played games (she likes the Feed The Pig game), and she rode rides (she loves the carousel).

At the end of it all, Charlie and I went to cash in her tickets. This part has been a challenge.

She asked for something the last two times we redeemed her tickets. However, I couldn’t understand her. It was the same sound both times but I couldn’t make out what she was saying.

Both times, she was satisfied with whatever toy she happened to receive. But, I felt bad. Charlie was trying. Despite her best efforts, she couldn’t get what she wanted because I failed to understand her.

Tonight, we stepped up to the counter and Charlie said, “Appy”. The same sound she said the past two times. I took a fresh look at the glass case as she said, “Appy” again. I glanced at the employee (the staff is amazing) with an expression that begged for help. I didn’t want to waste his time but I desperately wanted to figure out what she was trying to say.

The last time, it sounded like a question, “Appy?”

I scanned the case again and IT CLICKED!

I blurted out, “Airplane! Do you want the airplane?” Charlie said, “Yeah! Appy!”

I passed the little plastic airplane from the employee to her hands. She took it and pretended to fly it among the games and rides.

Once again, I had to fight back tears.

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Charlie attended a birthday party last weekend.

 

 

 

 

 

 


The Steps Back

10632804_10101908364064989_7657235980990242876_nCharlie has made so much progress, it’s only natural she would take a few steps back. This was the week for back sliding and hassles.

Earlier this week, Charlie had her medicaid waiver eligibility interview. It did not go as well as hoped. Unfortunately, the medicaid waiver that applies to Charlie has a ten year waiting list. Although I still cling to hope that all this will be a memory in ten years, we are getting on the list.

Later in the week, Charlie had a follow up with the gastroenterologist. There is some question as to what is going on in Charlie’s GI tract. To find an answer, she will have an upper GI. If that is unremarkable, she will have an upper endoscopy. Following the appointment, Charlie went to the splash park.

10419984_10101908363800519_4688971542622721905_n_editedFinally, we gave the big girl bed experiment a valiant effort. However, Charlie is not ready for it. Yes, she got out of bed and wandered around her room. That was not the problem. The problem is that she banged on the walls and door incessantly.

Initially, it wasn’t a problem. We ignored it and eventually she went to bed somewhere on the floor. However, the intensity of the pounding increased until she bruised herself. With her high pain tolerance, her dad and I became concerned she may accidentally hurt herself.

Replacing the crib rail was not an option because she gets stuck in the slats in her attempts to get out. For now, she sleeps in her play pen. It’s OK she is not ready for a big girl bed yet. In the near future, we will try again.

 


Flight

10599193_10101903098901419_4288387578415227_n_editedCharlie has her Medicaid Waiver screening tomorrow. I’ve worried about it for about a month. If Charlie is found not eligible for a Medicaid Wavier, then we lose Medicaid as Charlie’s secondary insurance.  With all of her needs (PT, OT, ST, formula, medication, etc), I don’t know how we’ll manage without it.

Without Medicaid, the services available to her will become limited and she will have to discontinue some of her therapy. We will go even deeper into medical debt because the bills will pile up much faster.

For the last month, I’ve gathered documentation and researched the waiver process. I’ve had nightmares the past two nights about losing Medicaid as her secondary insurance.

10516774_10101903098048129_3487054563820410646_nThis morning, I woke up and looked over her paper work. Then, I realized that I am as prepared as I will ever be. I took a deep breath and decided to try and stop worrying about it. Tomorrow, I have a fight. Today, rather than stress over it, I chose flight.

Charlie and I went to Leesylvania State Park. She played in the water (her sensory issues are improving remarkably), climbed on the playground, and walked on a riverside trail (her legs are getting so strong). It was relaxing and I could forget about the medicaid waiver issue for the afternoon.

Wish us luck tomorrow. We need all the positive thoughts we can get.

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The Great Escape

10653621_10101893479149479_4936584095703173115_n_editedBack in January, through something short of a miracle, we won a contest. The prize was a week long cabin stay at any Virginia State Park of our choice. We ended up choosing Natural Tunnel State Park and celebrated the anniversary of Charlie’s NICU discharge there last week. It was the vacation I hoped for and desired. So much so, that I’m bitter about being back.

My husband and I decided to disconnect from our lives. Other than using the visitor center’s wifi to upload pics and respond to a few tweets, we were out of contact. It was a marvelous escape.

I countered phone calls, emails, and text messages from doctor’s offices, therapists, and the like (whom can be surprisingly persistent over trivial matters) with the simple message “On vacation, will return on Saturday.” I did not have to answer questions from people such as, “Is she eating yet?” or “Isn’t she really small for two?” Nor, did I have to politely listen to unsolicited advice.

It was exceptionally quiet. I love quiet.

984177_10101885614994309_3831279311050384390_nThe area was extraordinarily beautiful and rich in history. The first few days we explored every inch of the park. Charlie went swimming, my husband went fishing, and I went hiking with our dog. We played on the playgrounds, rode the ski lift to the Natural Tunnel, and climbed up to Lover’s Leap. Charlie found a trail marker with a “2” on it and she stood over it saying, “Two, two, two, two, two…” We had to pull her away to finish the hike.

Later, we ventured over to nearby Wilderness Road State Park. We poked around the historic area with the fort and talked to the period actors. Charlie liked the blacksmith. She exclaimed “Whoa!” when the bellows blew sparks and said, “Ding!” each time he hammered. Wilderness Road had a really nice playground but Charlie preferred playing in the natural play area.

10605993_10101884004162429_5830653123281358990_nTowards the end of the week, we visited Southwest Virginia Museum State Park which was also near by. (For those who are counting, that makes 28 out of 36.) The museum was filled with artifacts from the area. Charlie liked the interactive exhibits. She repeatedly played the same track about spiritual music. Fortunately, we were the only ones touring the mansion at the time.

After the museum, we went to Bark Camp Lake. The lake was lovely. However, we did not get to stay long because Charlie had an issue. She would not let go of my leg and screamed, “Mommy, mommy, mommy!” We assumed she was just tired and headed back to the cabin for a nap. But, we realized later that her stomach was bothering her.

We wrapped up our week by riding the ski lift and revisiting the Natural Tunnel. We retraced our favorite sights and activities.

There were moments that don’t fit into this narrative such as rocking on the back porch while watching a quick down pour. Or, cooking out with friends (during the couple of nights they joined us) until late in the evening. And, gazing at the most stars I had ever seen each clear night.

10614411_10101893490037659_2810308428759719378_nAfter a week like that, I am fighting back tears now that we are home. It’s not so much being home that is upsetting because we live in another beautiful area of the state.

Instead, it’s the thought of returning to our normal. Back to arguing with insurance, back to navigating a confusing and overwhelmed medicaid waiver system, back to answering people’s questions about Charlie, back to patiently nodding at unsolicited advice, back to therapists making unrealistic home therapy suggestions, and back to sitting in countless doctors’ offices.

I live a strange polarity. I detest many of the things in my daily life. However, I wake up each morning so grateful for the life I have.

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