World Prematurity Day

Das Big Boy. November 17, 2010.

Das Big Boy. November 17, 2010.

Today is World Prematurity Day. Obviously, I’m acutely aware of prematurity, and chances are, if you follow this blog at all, you’re aware of prematurity, too.

I have to be honest. I always have a bit of a squeamish reaction to prematurity awareness. That’s because one of the main goals of the day is to reduce prematurity. Now obviously, I’m all for reducing, nay, eliminating, prematurity! But to suggest that it can be done feels like suggesting that Das Big Boy’s premature birth was somehow preventable if I had done something differently. Prematurity prevention often talks about getting mothers prenatal care, and of stopping pregnant women from smoking and/or using cocaine. I’m here to tell you that I had topflight prenatal care, and that I didn’t have so much as an Advil before I was admitted to the hospital with PPROM. I took my bedrest extremely seriously, both at home and in the hospital. I only ate pasteurized cheese. I didn’t touch soft serve or smoothies. Or penne a la vodka. I didn’t clean a litterbox between 2010 and 2014. I was ridiculously, overly careful. And I still had a preemie and a baby who I managed to get to 36 weeks and 3 days which felt like an elephantine effort for not only me, Herr Husband, and Das Big Boy, but also my parents and Nanny Sunshine, not to mention a cadre of talented medical personnel. So preventing prematurity isn’t always possible, no matter how hard we try. And sometimes suggesting that it is fires up that tiny voice that wonders if I could have done something differently.

Das Big Boy. November 17, 2014.  And no, I didn't position him to resemble the photo from four years ago. I guess he still falls asleep the same way.

Das Big Boy. November 17, 2014.
And no, I didn’t position him to resemble the photo from four years ago. I guess he still falls asleep the same way.

That isn’t to say you shouldn’t love the March of Dimes and give them money in Das Big Boy’s honor. Please feel free! They’re the ones who helped get the surfactant developed which enabled him to breathe. They conducted the research into the betamethasone that grew him the paltry lungs he had at birth so he could survive. And they fund research into PPROM’s causes, and many other issues associated with prematurity that could have helped me, Das Big Boy, and our many preemie pals.

But rather than talking about preventing prematurity, I want to think about how we can respond to it. The doctors and the organizations like MoD have the medical research and stuff covered. So we can think about the personal responses. And this is really my advice for how to support anyone going though a stressful situation: preemie, sick kid, sick parent, illness, what-have-you:

Be present. Give presents.

Call to check in even if you think the person wants some space. Send texts. Emails. Leave voicemails. Don’t expect to hear back, but be there. If you talk to the person, listen. Offer empathy. Hope, but not false hope. Support. Tell the person how awesome they’re doing (but don’t say you don’t know how they do it. They don’t have a choice. They just do), and ask what you can do. We loved when people visited the NICU (as long as they were healthy!). Our people treated Das Big Boy like a person who mattered to them, which helped him feel like part of our lives even when he was stuck in the hospital. Finally, don’t hide from even the scariest or saddest situations. I know my friends who’ve lost children love the opportunity to talk about those children, to be reminded that they existed for everyone, not just for their families.

In the outfit our friends sent while I was on hospital bedrest. Look at how big that preemie outfit is on him!

In the outfit our friends sent while I was on hospital bedrest. Look at how big that preemie outfit is on him!

And send something, if you can. I’ve written about this before, but people sent us stuff for Das Big Boy even before we knew if he would survive until birth. That meant more than I can express to this day. That people believed in him enough to send him a little outfit (Thank you still, A and M!) still brings tears to my eyes. When something is so uncertain, tiny tangible things mean so much. It’s why we took multiple photos of him every day that he was in the NICU. It was, I think, our way of proving that he was there, that he existed.

Friends also sent stuff to support us and keep our spirits up. Cupcakes delivered to the NICU. Gift cards for grocery delivery. A couples massage. Having our team care for us enabled us to care for our little dude. And it reminded us that we were part of a larger world that loved us.

Prematurity isn’t all tragedy. We loved Das Big Boy more than we thought possible. We celebrated his milestones (His first ccs of breastmilk! The first time we held him! His attempts at nursing! When we had to change his incubator because he had such an explosive poop!). We held him, cuddled him, read to him, and sang to him for up to fourteen hours a day. We befriended our nurses, doctors, and staffers, and of course the other families (and we celebrated their babies’ milestones, too!). The NICU became our community. Our home.

And during our 114 days in the NICU, Herr Husband and I also had a lot of laughs. We wrote songs like “Could be Gas, Could be Sepsis” (ok, it was a whole musical called NICU, the Musical), perfected our imitations of some of the NICUs characters and acted out scenes with them, and played a weird version of “chuck, fuck, marry,” in which we had to select a staff member to hurl from the window, one to bring to Boston, and one to leave at CHONY. We imagined setting up nurses with our friends and decided whom we would want to go for a drink with or invite to a party. Even when you’re miserable, misery doesn’t define you. You be you.

The last thing I think we can all do for World Prematurity Day is something to thank the best humans on the planet, NICU nurses. If you’re a NICU parent, you can do something to thank those nurses. Send them a treat. Donate something to the NICU that they can share with their patients. Write them a letter with a picture of your kid. And if you’re not a NICU alum, and you want to do something, you can still donate something to your local NICU. Or to the next best people: teachers or therapists or doctors who work with NICU alums. Looking for a new charity? You can give money to the Center for Healthy Infant Lung Development (CHILD) Clinic, or the Home Oxygen Parent Exchange (HOPE) program, both at Children’s Hospital Boston. These are the places in which Dr. Larry Rhein works his magic, helping preemies learn to breathe, and even more sweetly, to play. The HOPE Program is Larry’s passion project, where babies who are on germ isolation can take a music class safely without worrying about the common colds that could send them to the hospital. And where their parents can make pals with other folks who’ve had this strange introduction to parenting: (blue babies, plugged in babies, boob-to-pump-to-pump-to-belly, etc.)

So Happy World Prematurity Day, or something like that. Thanks, as always, for following our journey. Prematurity doesn’t define it anymore, but I do appreciate the opportunity to remember and reflect. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to do so.



Or, more precisely, gush.

Yup, my water just broke. On our way to the hospital as soon as La Gigi and El Papa arrive to tend to Das Big Boy.

Thanks for all of your love and support.

Let’s go have a baby!!!

Time Bomb

Das Big Boy on his shopping adventure with Herr Husband. They did not buy this truck, although I am sure they were tempted.

Das Big Boy on his shopping adventure with Herr Husband. They did not buy this truck, although I am sure they were tempted.

I feel like a bit of a time bomb, in part because since last night’s post lots of friends have been reaching out to ask if I’m in labor. The answer, so far, is no. In fact, I had a record lazy day. I’d planned to join Herr Husband and Das Big Boy for their trip to Target (and was SUPER excited to do so). But after yesterday’s appointment, I decided to lay low (literally), especially since Herr Husband and I have our big date night tomorrow night, courtesy of my wonderful cousin (who needs a fun name).

So while I was very sad to miss out on Target and an outing with my dudes, I compensated with a two hour nap. Yay, rest!

While at Lowes, they saw this enormous bulldozer, which Das Big Boy obviouly LOVED. When I asked him about it, he told me the window was wide open and he climbed in. This is what Curious George does in Das Big Boy’s favorite CG story. Has anyone else ever noticed what a crap caretaker the Man in the Yellow Hat is? He knows George functions like a wild toddler, yet consistently leaves him alone in places like train stations, and then acts surprised when trouble ensues. Really, dude?

More truck love. "Dig, dig, dig. Dump!" says the dump truck, according to Das Big Boy.

More truck love. “Dig, dig, dig. Dump!” says the dump truck, according to Das Big Boy.

Last night ‘Burban Bestie and her husband (‘Burban Buddy?–he’s a pal from high school and needs a name, too) came over for yuppie pizza. There was lots of laughing, and perhaps more discussion of my cervix than most dudes would want, but Herr Husband and ‘Burban Buddy are champs.

Tonight, we had an epic, as always, video chat with the Huxtables, who are expecting a baby in April. Again, laughter and cervical discussion dominated, although there was also time for us to bump compare and for me to boss Dr. Huxtable around about his future medical specialty. Good times had by all!

Well, based on the hour, I think we can safely say I’ll at least make it to 36.3! Huzzah!

Sweet dreams, sweet ballerinas. And thanks for all the love yesterday!

Fast and Soon

Greetings! I’ve just returned from the OB’s office. First of all, my blood pressure was a downright sexy 120/80, my weight gain was deemed perfect (despite the fact that I am now up 36 lbs this pregnancy), and my pee protein free!

Das Big Boy on a library date with Nanny Sunshine. She took him out so I could nap, then I took a bath while he ate lunch. Hence, low BP for me. Thanks, NS!

Das Big Boy on a library date with Nanny Sunshine. She took him out so I could nap, then I took a bath while he ate lunch. Hence, low BP for me. Thanks, NS!

We started with a love fest about my being at 36.1. “What an amazing outcome,” she said. “You’ve come SO far.” I shared my birth plan with her, which made me a bit nervous, oddly enough. I don’t like to seem demanding. But my doctor was happy to see it and talk through it and thought it all seemed straightforward. The upshot of it is: I’m going see how it goes doing this drug free, so don’t tempt me by asking about drugs. I am very good at asking for them if I want them. (Dear reader: you can call me crazy and we can discuss my desire for a drug-free birth in another post). Also, docs, please give me my kid immediately so we can bond ‘n boob.

We went over labor stuff: call if your water breaks or you bleed a lot or the baby seems lazy. Come in when your contractions are five minutes apart. I told her about my birth story with Das Big Boy. “So maybe more like eight minutes apart.”

Then my doctor checked my cervix. “Oh,” she said, “huh.” Even though she looked smiley rather than concerned, these are not things you love hearing when someone’s hand is in your vagina. “Well,” she said. “You’re dilated to 3 centimeters, you’re 80% effaced, and the baby is at station -1.”

“Wow,” I said.

“I’m surprised. I don’t know why, given your history,” she said. “Well, this is really exciting! But let’s change that: come to the hospital when your contractions are even ten or twelve minutes apart. Just come in. Don’t wait. I think you’re going to go fast. Soon, and fast.” When I looked worried, she reassured me, “It’s fine for you to have this baby now.”

“I’m so excited for you!” she said again.

So, we might not make it to 37. Of course, we might. Some people walk around at a 3 or a 4 for weeks. But most of those people don’t have my cervix.  We’ll just have to see! But my doc’s positive attitude and enthusiasm about it all have made the baby feel more real, and more imminent, than anything else. I left feeling a bit giddy, frankly.



Yesterday, La Gigi and Das Big Boy made popovers! They were delicious!

This is a big one, folks. We now have a decent chance of getting the “take-home baby” for which I so yearn!

It’s funny how I get greedy in these situations. When I went on bedrest ten (yes TEN) weeks ago, I would have been thrilled if you’d told me I’d be getting to thirty-two, or even thirty weeks. I would have been ecstatic with thirty-four. But with each new week we reach, I just want more. It doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate where I am; I am of course overjoyed that I’ve reached this huge milestone. But once I get to a new place, I start looking ahead to the next one.

I was the same way with Das Big Boy’s pregnancy. First we wanted to get to viability, and then each week beyond was a big deal. But as soon as we reached a new week, I set my sights on the next one. And I was sort of the same way with his health stuff. Each time he’d go down on his oxygen, I’d be elated. But soon enough, I’d be itching to turn the dial again. Or at first I was thrilled to stop using the G-Tube, but soon enough, I was jonesing to get it out. Or developmentally: his cruising would astound me, but then I’d be longing to see him take steps on his own.

And today, he went on a cupcake and toy store date with Nanny Sunshine so mommy could nap. I can't decide who's more spoiled, him or me.

And today, he went on a cupcake and toy store date with Nanny Sunshine so mommy could nap. I can’t decide who’s more spoiled, him or me.

Now on the one hand, this makes sense. I just wanted assurance that everything would be ok, that my son, and now my daughter, would be healthy and happy, and would reach their potential. But at the same time, it runs decidedly counter to the zen philosophy of parenting that I strive to practice and feel is best: there is no end of the tunnel, no finish line. I posted about this well over a year ago, and said there is no getting out of the woods when it comes to parenting (or life, for that matter), because there are no woods. (Except for our beloved friends, the Woods family, who have managed to triple their number of children since that post! Go, team, go!)

So that’s my greed. I’m incredibly happy with where I am. But I’m already looking ahead to full term at 37. I’m trying, though, as I look ahead, to remind myself that where I am is where I am, and that where I am is damn good!

Thanks for all of your support, as always. Tomorrow I have an OB appointment. If you like, send me some good, calming vibes so I don’t give myself white coat hypertension and the free trip to L&D it entails.


Spinach face! Das Big Boy has been doing some great eating lately, and is recently up about half a pound!

Spinach face! Das Big Boy has been doing some great eating lately, and is recently up about half a pound!

Happy New Year!

Today marked the day on which our daughter could be born no more than one month early! I think that sounds like quite an accomplishment.

Even more exciting: given that even if I went into labor this second, I probably wouldn’t deliver until after midnight, I think we can safely say that this baby will be born in the right year and the right month! Not to compare my children, but Das Big Boy did not manage to do either. Of course, Wee Mädchen could be born in February–my official due date is 1/31–but after all this hoopla, that would amuse me greatly. Or maybe not. My many friends and relatives who’ve been overdue have been many things, but I’m not sure amused is one of them.

Today’s ultrasound results were available on my delightful Patientsite page (how I love BIDMC and the ease with which they share patients’ medical results with them). I have yet to speak to a doctor, but we all know I’m pretty comfortable interpreting data and reading reports. And the news there is good as well. The little lady is estimated to weigh five pounds, twelve ounces, which would get her over the low birth weight hurdle (babies born at less than 2500g, or 5lbs 8 oz, are low birth weight). She has also gotten proportionally thicker around the middle and her head growth has gone from astronomical to a mere robust, meaning that her growth is within normal range. I’m hoping this means the ultrasounds are done! I know a lot of people wish for more of them, but frankly, I associate them with opportunities for to obsess over minutiae, so at this point I’d rather have a don’t ask, don’t tell relationship with my abdomen and fetus. This is a big milestone for me, who loves to obsess and will do so at any given opportunity. Here’s to zenning and letting go. May it be a goal for 2013.

More spinach, shown with giggly bluriness.

More spinach, shown with giggly bluriness.

So I’m bidding a fond farewell to 2012. It was a year in which I managed to shepherd one baby into a happy and healthy toddlerhood, and during which I managed to achieve a personal best at keeping a baby in my uterus. It was a year in which so many people helped me and my family during a scary and trying time, and was thus a year of gratitude. And now I’m ready to welcome 2013, in which I’ll become a parent again, and, according to everyone, realize how easy I had it before! Woo hoo!

Happy 2013s to all of you!

An Outing!

That’s right, folks. I went on an outing today, and it wasn’t to my doctor’s office or the hospital. More on that in a moment.

And this is BEFORE he got dumped in the snow.

And this is BEFORE he got dumped in the snow.

But first, Das Big Boy and Herr Husband attempted a snow frolic. It was a fail. Das Big Boy’s snow clothes, as it turns out, are too small. This is actually quite heartening news, as we tried his snowsuit on at the beginning of the winter season (or in, like, October) and found that it still fit. But today, the snowsuit was tight enough to restrict his movement, and perhaps uncomfortably snug in the crotch. He also doesn’t have boots that fit, because I bought him nice boots last year, which proceeded to go unworn as we had history’s mildest winter. Herr Husband insisted we try to get the still-tagged boots on Das Big Boy’s little brick feet (which seem to grow two sizes out for every size they grow long), but, as Das Big Boy said, “The boots are too small.” We’ve been working a lot on big and small recently.

So he donned his too-small snowsuit, his Merrill shoes, and no gloves because he doesn’t have any. So we folded his snowsuit over his hands as if he were an infant. Naturally, this maneuver also meant his arms had to be hunched up in his suit. Sorry, Lovey! We topped off the outfit of misery with an adorable (and well-fitting) owl hat that The Red Baroness gave him for Christmas, and Herr Husband took him outside.

Once there, HH stashed him under a tree so he could get the sled out of the garage. DBB followed his daddy, faceplanted in a foot of snow, and was obviously none too pleased. Then the sled kept dumping him out because the snow was drifty and unpredictable in depth. Suffice it to say, my men returned very quickly. And then I drank a hot chocolate to make them feel better.

Now, the news you’ve all been waiting for: my trip into the outside world! Our kind neighbors invited us over to watch the Patriots game this afternoon, along with the rest of our neighborhood crew (There are four families in adjoining houses with kids between nineteen months and two-and-a-half–it’s basically why you move to the suburbs.) The hosts live directly across the street from us, which I reasoned is the same as walking from my car to my doctor’s office. And they had already made clear that I was expected to couch-flop. So we did it! I admit I was a bit nervous–my first outing! What if something went wrong? What if I forgot how to socialize? I held on to Herr Husband extra tightly as we navigated the steps and snowy street. Of course, once we arrived, it was delightful. It was so nice to chat and catch up with everyone, and they all kindly put up with my rusty social skills. Das Big Boy did a bit of whining when we first got there, but quickly got right into the mix with the other kids and had a great time! And my water didn’t break on their lovely new furniture! A win for the Husband Hausfraus and the Pats!

I don't want my daughter to look like this. For so many reasons.

I don’t want my daughter to look like this. For so many reasons.

We have Wee Mädchen’s final growth ultrasound tomorrow (provided everything goes ok). If you want to send a little positive energy her way, you can convince her to even out her growth just a bit: the Bratz/supermodel look is hot and all, but her doctors would like to see her abdominal girth even out with her head width (As would her mother, who is hoping to birth her naturally).