Tag Archives: special needs

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.

 

 

 

 


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?


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


The Trouble With Feeding

Tonight, I jumped in a conversation on Twitter. The topic was about colic. Someone jokingly asked if there was colic in the NICU.

And, I remembered.

Charlie was fussy after she was transitioned off of donor milk to 24 cal/oz preemie formula. She didn’t cry, at first, but was incredibly gassy. The excess gas was explained by the removal of the replogle. I was reassured that it would get better.

It didn’t.

The last week Charlie was in the NICU, she finally took the majority of her feeds from a bottle. She sometimes cried after I fed her. I asked the nurses and the doctors if it was normal. I was told it was. This time, the high calorie content was cited for the digestive disturbance.

Things escalated.

About a month or so after discharge, Charlie screamed relentlessly after every feeding. I was told that it was probably colic. Then, the vomiting began.

Because she had reflux (formula had to be suctioned out of her nose if she laid flat), the vomiting was initially attributed to it. Finally, Charlie vomited while we were at the pediatrician’s office. I wiped it up with the many spit rags I carried and tucked it away. As disturbing as that sounds, that was our normal at the time.

The visit wasn’t with our usual pediatrician (she was out of town) and the doctor was ready to send us home. Before we left, she told me what to watch out for in the vomit. When she finished listing off colors and textures, I pulled the soiled spit rag out, showed it to her, and asked, “You mean like this?”

Charlie was readmitted that afternoon.

Pyloric stenosis was ruled out. Her formula was changed to a fully hydrolyzed formula (24cal/oz). She improved. But, she continued and continues to have issues.

Her stomach emptied slowly. She has a feeding disorder due to a combination of oral aversion and possible apraxia. Charlie is still (fully hydrolyzed whey protein) formula dependent.

I constantly tell myself that I’m over it. It is what it is. Other kids and parents have to deal with so much more. After everything we’ve been through, this is such a little hurdle.

However, that is only partially true.

The few tweets I sent out tonight revealed to me (and probably weirded out the other people) how strangely emotional this part of the journey has been.

For starters, I feel guilty that I didn’t push harder in the beginning when my gut was telling me that it was more than colic and reflux. I remember the helplessness and desperation I felt to get it figured out.

Now, after two straight years in feeding therapy, I feel a similar sort of desperation to get Charlie to adequately consume food. I dread meal times. I loathe feeding therapy. I detest the way that feeding and caloric intake is always in the back of my mind. Weight checks are heart breaking and demoralizing.

My hope is that Charlie’s evaluation for the intensive feeding program goes well this month. I hope she is a suitable candidate for the program. If she is, she will attend the program in May.

Nevertheless, I’ve learned, by now, to have a plan B. Plan B is to discuss alternatives with the developmental pediatrician in case Charlie is not a good fit for the program. I have accepted that Charlie needs more help with feeding that I can provide. Now, my job, as her mommy, is to find the appropriate help (and, possibly, fight insurance to pay for it).

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Charlie is a very happy toddler when not presented with food.


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.

 

 

 


Time For Class

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

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

As usual, Charlie was the star of the presentation.

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

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

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

Maybe, I’m making progress too.

Charlie high fived her dad after he bowled a strike.

Charlie high fived her dad after he bowled a strike.

 

 


I Confess, I Hate Feeding

I have to say it. I hate feeding. Or rather, I hate feeding disorders. For two and a half years, we’ve been desperate to avoid the g-tube and have managed to do so, so far.

As far as feeding goes, it is a see saw ride between hope and discouragement. I find that Charlie’s feeding disorder affects my relationship with food.

Before all this, I relished mealtime. Now, eating feels more like a mundane chore. I’m no longer excited or enticed by dishes or deserts.

I’ve lost the ability to derive pleasure from eating. It has become a routine like brushing one’s teeth…  something we do to stay healthy and alive.

I blame the change on our struggle with Charlie’s feeding disorder.

Our most recent set back happened at her last weight check. The use of erythromycin has helped significantly with Charlie’s gastroparesis (delayed gastric emptying). Charlie indicated that she was ready to attempt a slow transition to solids.

Not only did she tolerate solids (soft solids), she ate well. We continued to offer her the usual formula but we introduced more solids. At first, it was mostly for practice. But she enthusiastically gobbled the offerings and also wanted to try the food on our plates. We happily indulged her desires.

It seemed like between the formula, what she ate off our plates, and the food we offered her that she was always eating.

When it was time for her weight check, I was excited. I couldn’t wait to see how much she gained. I dared to hope that it was the beginning of the end of her feeding issues.

The nurse placed her on the scale and announced her weight. I gasped. How could she have possibly lost weight?

I tried to figure out the inconsistencies. Was it the same scale? Was it a naked weight? Was the scale zeroed properly?

I couldn’t figure out the missing weight. That day, I called the feeding clinic and let them know that there may be a problem. I wanted to be proactive before it turned into a bigger problem.

The feeding clinic’s dietitian requested that I keep a food log for Charlie. I diligently and meticulously (I have chemistry experience) documented every morsel of food that Charlie ate.

However, I discovered a problem. Charlie eats very slowly and pauses frequently because she is tired. This is why she eats all day.

The dietitian wanted me to break it up into breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But, Charlie ate continuously through out the day and there were no defined meals. I documented everything by day. The dietitian could figure out breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

The results? Charlie consumes 130% of her caloric needs. She also consumes more protein, vitamins, and nutrients than required. As of right now, we are unsure why she lost/is losing weight.

But, there are a few theories.

First, Charlie is extraordinarily active for a two year old. Maybe she is burning more calories than she is taking in.

Second, maybe there is an issue with poor digestion or malabsorption. When she was 100% formula fed, she didn’t have weight loss issues as long as she ate the amount of formula recommended. But, the formula is fully hydrolyzed (broken down) which makes it easier to digest.

It could be none of these things.

Maybe the weight loss was just a random fluctuation or there was an error during the weight check. And, her next weight check will be better.

Her next weight check is in a week. I hope it goes well. I have my fingers crossed that this is just another scare. If not, her follow up with the feeding clinic is the following week.

A sneak peek of Charlie's Halloween costume which she wore this week to Chuck E Cheese.

A sneak peek of Charlie’s Halloween costume which she wore this week to Chuck E Cheese.

 

 


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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10 Things I Am Thankful For

Today’s Blogtober assignment is to compile a list of ten things I am thankful for. Despite all of my rants and complaints, I do have many things for which I am grateful. I think I will start my list with the most obvious but the rest is in no particular order.

I am thankful for: 

1) … Charlie and that she survived.

2) … growing older. It’s a privilege denied to many.

3) …the people in life who carry out random acts of kindness. The ones who take a moment from their lives to go out of their way for other people. Like the gentleman who offered his seat to me on the Metro, the people who hold doors open, the neighbors who make meals for practical strangers, and the countless others who contribute their time, talent, or money. Whether the act is big or small, every act is significant.

4) … for the outdoors. It has been a substantial part of my healing process. No matter how overwhelmed, sick, defeated, or hurt I may feel, being outdoors is a panacea.

5) … my friends and husband. I am blessed with extraordinary friends. I am fortunate to receive their love, understanding, kindness, support, encouragement, and time.

6) …writers, authors, bloggers, and anyone brave enough to write down their thoughts and ideas for others to read. Almost every night, I wind down before bed with a book. I can’t imagine the world without the written word.

7) …my Share Your Story people. I would be walking this post NICU journey alone without them.

8) …music. Through singing, playing, listening, and dancing, it has the power to commiserate, inspire, celebrate, immortalize a moment, transform, and heal.

9) …my animals. I am not sure who rescued whom.

10) …the world. There is never a shortage of places to visit, languages to learn, music to hear, new ideas to discover, people to meet, new foods to eat, and experiences to enjoy. I am incredibly lucky to be an infinitesimal and minute quark in the midst of it all.

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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.

 

 

 


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