Saturday, August 2, 2014

4 Months and Counting

Today Charlie is four months old and I just can't believe it!

Charlie is starting to get so big (12 and a half pounds and growing) and alert that it's just amazing. I definitely had a hard time imagining him so heathly at this point whe we were in the throes of NICU and preemie days. But here we are! I am so thankful for all the mothers who reached out to me during that time to tell me what strong and healthy kids their preemies had grown up to be. They were right.

We will continue having preemie questions for awhile as we wait for him to hit various developmental milestones and wonder if he'll get there based on his real age or adjusted age (based upon his due date). Our doctor said we need to consider his adjusted age until he turns two. For example, right now we try not to think of the typical expectations for a four month old but rather for a nine week old. The biggest area for Ben and I have to patience right now is sleeping though the night. :) Most nine week olds don't have it down quite yet but our sleep deprived selves are going on four months not nine weeks. Oh, we are tired but baby boy will get there; he's having more and more good nights. It's amazing how happy I now am with four uninterrupted hours.


beyond happy that I have been able to be home with Charlie this whole time. We are enjoying lots of walks in the neighborhood (love my recent Bob purchase!), swim lessons to get comfortable with the water, bootcamps, visits from friends and family, babysitting by Gram and Grandpa, library music time, running errands and lunch dates when it works for our schedule. Time at home is pretty good too - reading stories, nursing, tummy time, nursing, discovering toys, naps together and of course more nursing - the boy likes to eat! We took our first flight earlier this month, traveling to Lubbock to see family and friends. Charlie was a great traveler and it was sooooo fun to have him at my parent's house for the weekend. I think Papa and Nana loved every minute too. My best friend, Juli, had a sweet sip n' see for us while we there which was just perfect.

My days until I return to work are closing in as we hit August. I'm nervous about the transition and handling it but know we will be okay. I'm going to be able to begin by working part-time for about two months as I use the rest of my maternity leave days. This may increase the work stress but will hopefully help Charlie (and me) with the transition. Ben and I also both really like the small home daycare we are sending Charlie to which helps tremendously. The teachers all seem extremely loving and we have met several other families whose little ones go there and they all love it. All of this helps but I will probably be a big mess the last two weeks of August.

Have a great weekend - here are a few more Charlie shots. :)




















Tuesday, May 27, 2014

While We Were Waiting

I began working on this entry a few months ago to help keep track of big events during the pregnancy. Little did I know that my pregnancy would be cut short by eight weeks. Nonetheless, this is what happened up until March 30th. Then Charles Tiberius arrived April 2nd and our world tilted on its head forever. Today, May 27th, is the day we thought Charlie would be heading into the world so I thought it was a good time to finish it up.

So a time capsule seems a little hokey but I'd love to have some of our happenings over these nine months somewhere for our future baby to know about them. Assuming the internet will still be around by the time our baby can read (just guessing that'll be around age two), I thought this might be a good place for a list of some sorts.

What Movies We Saw: The Hunger Games:Catching Fire, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, American Hustle, The Wolf of Wall Street (not sure you should ever see this one my sweet innocent babe), Frozen (just mommy with lots of your aunts, uncles, cousins and Gram), The Monuments Men, Philomena (just mommy and nana), Flight (just a few hours before our surprise early trip to the hospital)

Books We Read: Mom's Books: The Mermaid of Brooklyn, What to Expect When You're Expecting (dr. said not to read this book because it'd worry me but I had to read), November 22, Belly Laughs, This Beautiful Life (makes me already worry about your teen years), The Kitchen House, Wonder, The Husband's Secret, The Guardian, The Queen's Fool, The Lowlands, Girlfriend's Guide to Pregnancy, The Chaperone Dad's Books: The Companions, The Shattered Mask, Shadow Storm, Shadowbred, The Last Threshold, Shadow Realm, Black Wolf, The Halls of Stormweather

Favorite TV Shows: Game of Thrones, Homeland, The Blacklist, Modern Family, The Mindy Project, Criminal Minds, In The Middle, Castle, Happy Endings

Favorite Restaurants: Penne Pomodoro, Mot Hai Ba, Velvet Taco, Taverna, Teppo, Gloria's, Toulouse, Lakehouse

Trips: Caddo Lake and Jefferson for Daddy's birthday in October, Wichita to see Daddy's friends, Laredo for your cousin Ted's wedding, New Orleans for Stephanie's 40th birthday (yes, baby you and momma danced on Bourbon St.), Austin for our one year wedding anniversary and babymoon, Lubbock for a baby shower (just you and I made this trip), Keystone, Colorado for Dad on a boy's weekend ski trip

Major News Events: Obamacare became law giving everyone in our country healthcare, various legislation across our country for equal rights for LGBT, 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Marijuana legalization in Colorado (this isn't why your dad took a trip there), Russia invades Crimea, Malaysia flight disappearance

What We Dreamed About: You, how life would be different with you, what maternity leave will be like, what your cry, gurgle and laugh will sound like, how to pay for your college someday (your sweet daddy already started a college fund), how to pay for your diapers before that, how soft your skin will be, which of us is going to spoil you more, possibly expanding our house someday to hold our growing family, what activities you're going to be interested in (basketball, soccer, chess team, basketball, piano, swimming, band, basketball??)

Whatever we have ahead of us, we are so grateful that we have Charlie in our lives!


Our first day & night with you

Tonight - May 27th with Charlie at 7 weeks, 6 days old and 8 pounds, 3.5 ounces


Monday, May 26, 2014

We Are Home!

Goodbye hospital and hello home! Yes we said this over three weeks ago and it is still hard to believe. I would have written sooner if only all the things I think of writing during feeding time could somehow type themselves. Now that I think of it, I'm sure I could do that with Siri but my sleep-deprived brain didn't get to that thought until just now. I'll experiement soon with Siri!

     I couldn't have been happier to finally get all of us under our roof. We were welcomed home by balloons and porch decorations from Gram and the Cuccias and a homecooked meal by my mom. Then we plunged into baby at home life. It was funny to see the things we felt very comfortable with from our time at the hospital and the things we didn't have a clue about. On the clueless side - how does the bottle warmer work?? (Thankfully, between two granddads they figured it out pretty quickly.) Then the hospital trained side of us was our little three hour schedule of temperature, diaper, feeding, pump and repeat. Charlie did this well at the hospital but at home it lasted about three days and he decided that wasn't going to be the exact schedule any more. Ben and I were pretty much in agreement with him on this as waking him in the middle of the night to try to force a feeding just seemed wrong. We all adjusted to feeding him 'on demand' and what do you know, it settled into basically a three hour schedule.

    The first two weeks at home were hard, really hard. I wish I could just say it has been all bliss but it's not. As much as I'm in love with Charlie, he is hard work. (this is the point where all parents, say duh, it's just beginning!) I'm so glad we had my parents in town for those two weeks as they helped fill in all the gaps of work that Ben and I were not getting to - laundry, cooking, gadget tinkering, groceries and the list goes on. They were also both excellent Charlie holders at any given moment so I could slip away for a power nap here and there.

   It was strange being home because it was such a different stress than our time at the hospital. We still had the worries about his health and weight gain but now we also had to run the show without our nurses and doctors there 24/7. The biggest challenge at home has been his feeding. When Charlie came home he wasn't ready to do a full feeding from nursing, so I would nurse him, give him the rest from a bottle and then need to pump to keep up my milk supply. It's called triple feeding and it's not pretty. As a new parent, feeding time consumes most of your time but this felt like it took over all hours of the day. Triple feeding could easily take an hour and a half to two hours of our roughly every three hour feeding. It was so different than what my full-term baby momma friends had to do that it was hard to get advice. Thankfully, I reached out to a few preemie moms I know (lifesavers!) and got some good encouragement and advice. I also learned about some facebook pages for preemie moms which helped with ideas.
    Charlie loves to cuddle and makes lots of little noises - little baby cooes and grunts and sighs. Holding him and letting him snuggle in is the best part of the day right now. He really is a good baby and only gets fussy when he decides he's hungry - then he goes from calmest baby ever to being very hangry and loud in about three seconds. We have had the chance to take some walks in the neighborhood and head to a few patios for dinner. Charlie has enjoyed these outings so much they usually put him right to sleep.

     There was also a lot of advice coming in from all sides. I sought out quite a bit of advice but it still can get overwhelming when ideas starts conflicting. We left Charlie's first peditrician appointment and both our heads were spinning because lots of her directions conflicted with what the doctors had been telling us for a month at the hospital. Finally on about day 14 or 15 home, I think we really began feeling comfortable with putting ideas and opinions together into what works for us. About that time we also got Charlie transitioned from the triple feeding to full nursing and a bottle feeding instead when we needed it. This was the best news of the month!!
We have had lots of great visitors this month. I didn't get photos of everyone but did my best. Thanks to everyone who stopped by to meet Charlie!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The First Week of the Best Part of Life - part two

Charlie was officially here at 8:27am on April 2nd and despite the surprise and concerns of him being so early our hearts were very, very full. Now we entered a phase we had not prepared for whatsoever; preemies and the NICU. Ben was able to head to the NICU with the team after they did their initial assessment in the delivery room. Thankfully, the initial assessment was really good (Apgar of 9) which was how I got to hold him in the delivery room. Ben's dad, mom, and stepdad were all at the hospital waiting for Charlie to arrive and briefly met their grandson as he headed to NICU with dad. My parents were on the road from Lubbock and more of the Wrights were on the way.

After they monitored me for awhile, they eventually let Ben take me and his parents and his sister, Carrie, up to the NICU to see little Charlie. He was stable but already hooked up to lots of equipment, including his feeding (n.g.) tube, IV (it's strapped to his arm with the big white strip to help his little arm support the needle) and lots of monitors for heart rate and oxygen. They added his oxygen cannula later on that day to help his oxygen stat stay up a little better. He seemed really calm and comfortable (and sleepy) which made it easier. Charlie was in a nursery of six babies with nurses at a 2:1 ratio. The NICU holds up to 40 babies but they are divided into various nurseries which is really good because with just six babies in a nursery, alarms and buzzers are going off all the time as babies numbers dip and jump up into concerning levels. I can't imagine if the NICU had all 40 babies in one room like you usually see on hospital dramas. The activities of just six babies was enough to keep us on edge most of the time. Nonetheless, I was able to hold him again and getting to be there and hold him was all I needed right then.

The first day consisted of several visits across the hospital from my room to the NICU to see Charlie. Really this is what the first three days consisted of mainly, going back and forth between my room and the NICU. My parents also arrived on Wednesday afternoon and it ws so good to have them here by our side. When we were in my room, where Ben and I were both were staying, we tried to get rest and in the NICU we tried to fill like we were helping somehow. Every three hours, Charlie had a feeding with his ng tube and we could help take his temperature and change his diaper. In this way, they let the parents contribute. It felt very small compared to everything the nurses and doctors were doing but we gladly took it. We also got to hold him some for skin to skin time but they didn't want him out of his isolette very much, so lots of the time it was talking to him or reading a story to him while he was in his bed.
Our other main job was for me to start pumping and praying that my milk would start coming in. I say 'our' job because it is a team effort, especially at first. This was one important way I knew I could really help him but it was slow-going the first few days. I knew it was very possible that my body might not cooperate and there might not be much I could do about it. The lactation specialist visited everyday and nurses were very helpful too. Thankfully, the tiny results of the first few days seemed to change overnight and I soon felt more like a milk production machine. I was grateful that this piece came along so well for Charlie and I now answer to Elsie.
The first weekend was probably our toughest stretch of the journey. Friday, I was discharged which meant we didn't have a place to stay that night at the hospital. They did let us keep my room until that evening and we took full advantage of it. The NICU at Presby has four parent rooms but they are only available first-come, first-serve and for three nights at a time. A few people seemed to try to dissuade us from getting one telling us we lived close and we'd rest better at home. This didn't work for me. I got us on the list for a room but we couldn't start until Monday night. Thankfully a room became open a night early so we were able to stay there beginning on Sunday night.
Leaving on Friday night was the hardest drive home I've ever had. It was my first time to leave the hospital or step outside since we had arrived the Sunday before. It was also another reminder that our birth story wasn't going the way I had dreamed. Our son wasn't with us on the big ride home, not yet at least. At this point, I think the length of our hospital time really began to set in for both of us. We had originally been told that Charlie could be in the hospital until his original due date of May 27th which sounded impossible but after watching him in the NICU with all the tubes and monitors for several days and Ben and I both started to prepare ourselves for that. It seemed like an eternity; it still does in fact just being a few more weeks into it.
Nurses cannot tell you about other NICU babies but being in one room together you cannot help noticing the other babies and overhearing conversations. Over the weekend, several babies in our nursery graduated out of NICU to the Special Care nursery. We were glad to see babies doing better of course but you can't help wondering when you'll get a turn (Ben gently reminded me that the other babies were in NICU before us and we would get there.) By Saturday evening there was only one other baby with us in the nursery and it was very, very sick. We had overheard enough conversations between the parents and the doctors that we didn't want to hear and knew this baby wasn't going home. It was heartbreaking to have to be an unintentional witness to another familiy's suffering and I couldn't help turning to our child who was in the very same nursery and getting scared of the very worst for our child. I knew our Charlie was thankfully very healthy, no one has mentioned a word to us about future surgeries, procedures or long term concerns, he just needed time to mature. But the fact that so many machines were needed to help him mature and grow was still scary.
Juli, my best friend, flew into town to be with us for a day over the weekend, which was a big moodlifter for me but also very emotional. It meant so much to have her there and I knew she was there for us in every way she could be. We talked and stared at Charlie all day and the hours flew by until it was time for her to go. My friend Sunipa was also in town from California and gave us a very welcome visit on Saturday. We had lots of friends offering to visit and help but we were so afraid about germs in the NICU that we kept visitors to a minimum for awhile.
Then on day six in the NICU, just like that in the span of a few hours, Charlie made progress in three areas and the doctor said we could move out of NICU and into the transition to home nursery called Special Care. We were surprised things improved so quickly but we would not complain. Charlie had been able to take off his oxygen cannula so he didn't need any support with breathing (other than monitoring for the times he briefly forgets to breathe), he was able to have his huge IV removed and he latched on nursing for the first time, all within a few hours of each other.
I was very happy the morning they decided to move us out of the NICU and into Special Care.
We have had such amazing support during this past month. My parents were so helpful during their entire time here. They made several trips back and forth to the hospital, grocery store, drug store, restaurants, baby store and anywhere else we need them to go. While we were in the NICU, Ben and I came home for a dinner break every night and it was really nice to come home to a house that was active and have a home cooked meal thanks to my mom. Between my parents and Ben's parents we also got all kinds of help taking care of the cats and dogs on the days and nights we weren't able to come home. My mom just loves bonding with our cats. After we were moved to Special Care, both grandmothers volunteered to be babysitters so I could go home to get afternoon naps every few days. All of our friends have been amazing too - more cards, flowers, gifts, visits and food then we ever could have expected. Our church, Munger Methodist, has also been very generous and organized a food calendar so members of the congregation and friends could bring us a meal. Home cooked food never tasted so good.
Some of the sweet deliveries we received after Charlie arrived

A sign for our room in Special Care from my counseling students at school and cards from loved ones
Gram and Aunt Carrie with Charlie
Papa and Charlie

We are now on our third week in the Special Care Nursery and progress happens every day, slowly but surely. Charlie is what they refer to as a grower and feeder. He is doing great at growing and has started to gain a few ounces almost daily. Charlie is also getting stronger and more energetic so nursing and bottle feeding are also becoming easier. The babies in Special Care learn to do both before they can go home. We are still having some breathing events where his heart rate dips and signals the alarm because he has forgotten to breath for a few moments. He recovers himself without us needing to do anything most of the time which is really good but he needs to grow out of these events so he can go home. Charlie has his own private room with a private bath, couch and mini fridge and we can stay here with him. It's almost like living in a dorm room again.

The days in the NICU now seem a long time ago but this whole month has been a blur. Remembering what it was like for the week we were there, it is really difficult to capture it in a few paragraphs. I don't think I could ever really explain it well enough, unless you've been there it's hard to get. The Special Care nursery is a completely different level of stress and worry compared to NICU. We still have hurdles to get over and daily worries and concerns but everyday his monitors go off a little less, he eats a little more on his own and we get a little closer. He will be home with us soon and that is something we appreciate every single day. I've been reminded again and again this month just how much that fact alone is worth. Hug your babies, family, friends and four-legged kiddos everyday.



Monday, April 14, 2014

The First Week of the Best Years of Our Lives - part one

(I chose the title of this entry from one of the Facebook comments that a friend, Greg Saturday, left us. I truly believe what it says but this has been a scary crash course and the hardest thing we've ever been through to get to the best years, but we are on our way.)

So now we believe the first rule of parenting is expect the unexpected. Because two Saturdays ago (3-29), when Ben and I went to bed, we had plans for the next day of sleeping in a little and then starting early on a day of yardwork and nursery decorating.

Then about 1am Sunday, my water decided to break early. Waking up to this was shocking and I couldn't even really consider that it could be my water breaking. I thought I had just peeded on myself; not that I'm in the habit of this but pregnancy does weird things to your body. We called my doctor just to be sure and she said to come into the hospital to check things out. Still, Ben and I really thought and hoped it was nothing. But once at the hospital, my test said it was amniotic fluid. It was just over 8 weeks to my due date of May 27th so we were scared beyond belief of what this meant for our baby.

Our plans had definitely changed, I was in the hospital until the baby arrived. Thankfully, I didn't have any major contractions yet so with medicine over the next twelve or so hours, the doctor was able to stop labor. Through a sonogram they also determined that I still had enough amniotic fluid and the baby wasn't in distress. At this point I was just shy of 32 weeks by two days. I was given two steroid injections to help the baby's lungs develop quicker and if we could get through the first 48 hours after my water broke the medicine would have time to help. After that, the goal was to get to 34 weeks but if labor started again they said we would let it progress.

I moved into a private room on the high risk floor on Sunday night and we settled in for a wait. The big concern during this time would be for me to stay laying flat as much as possible and for the baby and I to stay infection free since I had an opening in the amniotic sac that could let an infection get to the baby. Ben and I both went into overdrive on germ protection, suddenly every visitor, cough, unwashed hand and sniffle were a possible threat to our child.
Ben stayed with me all day on Monday and finally made himself go to work on Tuesday while his mom kept me company. I quickly got stocked up with magazines, crossword puzzles, snacks and flowers thanks to family, friends and co-workers. The therapy dog from the hospital even stopped by to say hi. I missed our dogs and cats terribly so it helped seeing a four-legged friend.
Ben and I were so scared about what lay ahead for our baby during this waiting period. A neonatologist from the NICU had visited us on Sunday to prepare us for some of the complications we might face with the baby and it was one of the scariest conversations I've ever had. I can't even imagine it without Ben. Thankfully, we felt our doctors and nurses were excellent and we knew our baby would be in good care whenever the time came to deliver.
Tuesday night, I began having a lot of cramps in the middle of the night. I say cramps and not contractions because I was really hoping that they were only cramps. Dr. Nokleberg had said I would have some contractions off and on while on bed rest that wouldn't signal labor so I chaulked these up to that. Eventually, I woke Ben up though and told him I was concerned. He was the same way I was and just wanted to assume they weren't anything. I requested some Tylenol from the nurse and just kept trying to go back to sleep. Eventually, I couldn't ignore them anymore so we requested a belly monitor and Ben laid next to me and started timing them. They started showing up on the monitor and Ben timed them to be about five minutes apart. The nurses called the on-call doctor and he said for us to head to labor and delivery. Again, Ben and I thought surely this can't be it. Just like with when my water broke, we wanted more time but it wasn't up to us.
We made it down to labor and delivery (longest ride of my life) with me looking at Ben and following his breathing. Even though we had started LaMaze two weeks before, we had two classes to still take - including the breathing one! We had watched a short video compilation of various couples breathing so that is what we both fell back on and it helped! I was pretty worked up at this point and ready to see our doctor. He wasn't there yet but in my mind the baby could come at any moment. They checked to make sure I was dilated and I was already at a ten. But the doctor still hadn't made an appearance! I was still considering trying to have a natural birth but was afraid that I would have to stay in that state until the doctor got there and I just couldn't do it any longer and be ready to start pushing. So they ordered the epidural. Wow, that helped! I got pretty instant relief from the contractions with a little time to recover before we started pushing. The doctor had made it by this time but... wait there was a shift change so we had to take a little pause -yes, mid-labor - as a new doctor and nurse team got set-up.
My doctor wasn't on-call but the new doctor, Dr. Richards, was from her practice and we'd met him once before at least. We know him better now! I pushed for about 45 minutes with Ben and our nurse, Adora, coaching me through most of it. Ben became an expert quickly at how to coach, he was so good. When we finally got to the very end, Dr. Richards returned and a NICU team came in to be able to assess the baby right away.
One last push and Ben said, "It's a boy!!!!!" This moment was priceless. I heard Ben and then could see our real, living, breathing, crying baby boy. Yes, this is one of those moments everyone says is unexplainable because it is. We had been warned I probably wouldn't be able hold him after he was born because the NICU team would need him. We knew if this was what he needed it would have to be this way but it made me cry every time I thought about it. Ben was wonderful about continuing to remind them that I wanted to have skin-to-skin time if at all possible. I had to wait a few minutes before I could hold him so the NICU team could quickly assess him but then I got to hold our son. This was the second unexplainably amazing moment.
Ben also got to cut the cord which we weren't sure would be able to happen. Speaking of the umbilical cord, after the doctors saw it, we may have a clue why Charlie wanted to arrive early. There was a seriously big knot tied in the middle of the cord. (I have pics of the knot but thought it might be TMI for the blog!) The doctors and nurses were all staring at the knot in surprise and said it was really rare to see. They said it wasn't tight enough yet to cause problems but it could have gotten tighter with time and cut off Charlie's food supply. Dr. Edwards didn't say he thought this was directly related to the early labor but Ben and I can't help thinking it could be the reason that Charlie, my body and God knew it was time for him to be born.
Our first meeting (Charlie was wrapped up by NICU team to stay warm)
Our labor and delivery nurse with us after Charlie has arrived.