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.
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.
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.
It was a lovely day for the Husband Hausfraus, or at least for the Hipster and her offspring. Herr Husband was at work. But we three walked to Trader Joe’s, had lunch at Sweet Corner, made a UPS truck out of an Amazon box (that had ironically arrived via Fed Ex), and capped it off with a delightful wine-fueled play date with ‘Burban Bestie and her babes.
But the day was not without a teachable moment, which I feel duty bound to share.
Sometimes, when Hipster Hausfrau is walking around her idyllic suburb, she starts to feel a little boss. It began at TJs, where they were playing “Tell Me Something Good.”
Who doesn’t want to dance when they hear that song? And one great thing about children is that they totally legitimize singing and dancing in the grocery store. What a great mom, people think, totally unafraid to make an ass of herself in order to keep those babies happy. To be fair, what I really wanted to do was cut loose with some hair swinging, getting low, grinding it out stripper dancing, but I held back. Almost entirely. And then my smugsbyness continued on the walk to lunch; this may have been related to my outfit choice which involved skinny jeans, legwarmers, and some gray go-go type boots with little heels. I confess that I may have been checking myself out in store windows.
After lunch, at which the children earned accolades for their behavior, I was basically feeling like hot shit as I strolled home.
And then the weight of the food I had purchased to feed my family outweighed my children, thereby causing the stroller to tip back in middle of the street, such that my children and groceries were flat on their backs and I was flat on my face. Yup. I totally bit it. Blame the heels on the boots.
But anyway, the kids were totally fine, the groceries were totally fine, and I was totally fine. Not even embarrassed because when I’m in a good mood, things like this immediately strike me as hilarious. But oddly, the woman who had pulled up as I was crossing the street just sat there. She, her daughter (about my age), and two grandchildren (about my kids’ ages) waited patiently as I checked on my kids, adjusted my groceries, and dusted myself off. I waved an apology, and she nodded.
But then she drove off. Didn’t roll down her window to ask if I needed help or even if the kids and I were ok.
What the fuck is up with that?
I would have gotten out of the car to make sure the mom was ok. Isn’t that what friendly, busybody-small-town living is all about?
Asshole, I muttered. And not that quietly. It’s a word I know Das Big Boy already has access to, because I am usually careful about my swearing until I’m not, and he once informed me that a truck was fixing some assholes in the street.
But then I realized this was a teachable moment.
“What do you think that lady should have said to us?” I asked DBB.
“I don’t know,” he said.
“When she saw that we had fallen, I think she should have asked us…” I looked at him expectantly.
“Are you ok?” he asked.
“Exactly.” I told him. “Are you ok? Do you need help?”
So that’s my lesson people. I guess it’s two lessons. If you think you’re hot stuff, the universe will remind you to take it down a level. But also, if you see your fellow man (or mom) in trouble, help a sister out. Don’t ignore her because you’re worried she might be embarrassed or you’re in some all-fired hurry.
Check on people.
Make sure they’re ok.
Show a little love.
Tell me something good.
I’m dating myself. Not in the way in which I make myself look old in front of the babysitter by talking about Thanksgiving pep rallies, but in the way in which I take myself on a date.
And it’s fucking awesome.
I’ve always loved dining in restaurants alone. A book, yummy food, wine, people watching and weird chit chat with strangers. It’s a joy I associate with travel, but something one can do anywhere, even in her hometown.
So yeah. Herr Husband is traveling for work all weekend, and our fantastic babysitter was available tonight. So I decided to take myself out.
I had a ninety minute massage. (Courtney at Lotus is a goddess. She has that sixth sense where she finds all your tension and presses it out of you. See her now. But not while I’m seeing her.)
Then I took myself out to dinner. I first fell in love with dining alone when I lived with a Spanish family in college. I was a newly minted vegetarian, and some nights their garden salad efforts at feeding my weird palate (“Estás segura que no quieres probar el cordero?”) just weren’t cutting it. So I would fake a study group and sneak off to the restaurant around the corner with my book and postcards on which to write deeply philosophical and revelatory notes to my high school boyfriend. The restauranteurs found my requests for gazpacho increasingly odd as autumn wore on, but they humored me with their deliciously cold soup and their cozy Rioja and left me to my my late-adolescent musings. The last time I remember dining solo was on a research trip to Germany shortly before I got pregnant with Das Big Boy. And once again, that combination of a book, wine, food, and writing materials was just perfect as I tried to trace my grandmother’s footsteps all over Berlin.
But once you have kids, it’s hard to mark out time to dine alone. I wouldn’t choose it over a date with Herr Husband, because we get so few of those. And when I do ditch him (or when he ditches me) it’s usually for friends. So I’ve inadvertently abandoned one of my favorite guilty pleasures.
No more. Tonight it was the wonderful Farmhouse for Montepulciano, kale salad, and cheese plate. And make a note of it people, it is possible to experience Euro-style solo dining fun in suburbia. I walked to dinner. I had a glass of wine paid for by a stranger: a fellow mom (of older kids) whom I’d just met who clearly appreciated my efforts at me-time. [Shout out and big thanks to Charlotte!]. And I ate yummy food including dessert and coffee. I read my book, The Handsome Man’s De Luxe Cafe, because yes, I adore the charming #1 Ladies Detective Agency novels. I thought thoughts and remembered memories and breathed and relaxed and smiled to myself about my sweet family. I chatted with the bartender about his impending baby. I walked home and bumped into my neighbor the life coach and enjoyed his friendly if unsolicited advice. My (amazing) babysitter said all was well. My children slept.
Life was good.
So here it is, people. I’m not going to make November 7 international date yourself day, if for no other reason than it would make getting a babysitter really fucking hard. But I insist you all date yourselves. We parents talk about me time but I don’t think we’re good at it. We come home and the kids are awake and we’re right back in the thick of it. We choose to go out with friends or our partners because we don’t get enough time with them as it is. But I insist. Go out by yourself. Dining alone is the best, but if you’re too shy, just go get a cup of coffee alone. Take yourself out. You’ll find you’re excellent company (and if you’re not, I do know a life coach you can call…).
I suppose you could watch election returns, but that would probably be depressing.
You could write a thank you note for DBB’s birthday. I am drowning in those things. If you gave him a birthday gift, please know that he loves it! Seriously, like every single one. But I am a slow note writer and I am so sorry.
You could drink Rioja.
You could sit here wishing just a little bit that the Benadryl the pediatrician recommended today would make DBB fall asleep before 10. So far, he’s singing Thomas the Tank Engine and the Skeleton Dance (two separate songs, unfortunately) in his bed.
But really, what you should do is watch this documentary on ESPN . It’s about El Duque, the amazing former pitcher from Cuba–yes, a Yankee, but a great guy by all accounts–and “Brothers in Exile” tells the story of his and his brother’s journey from Cuba to the MLB.
It’s supposed to be amazing and I’m going to watch it while drinking Rioja. And possibly listening to Thomas the Tank Engine and the Skeleton Dance, perhaps as a medley this time.
I always promise things like I’m not going to fucking swear on this blog, or I’m not going to get political.
But then I break those promises because both swearing and politics are important to me.
You should vote tomorrow. You should vote no matter what, because it’s the socially responsible thing to do. Of course, if you share my political beliefs, I extra hope you vote, because we lefties need to mobilize. I’m afraid we’re going to get creamed tomorrow.
Massholes, here’s a ballot question cheat sheet (thanks to NGB for posting this on FB!):
I’m voting no, yes, yes, yes. In short, it just makes good sense to peg gas tax to inflation so we can maintain infrastructure and discourage the driving of gas guzzlers. Recycling is good. Expand it. Duh. Casino gambling doesn’t bring enough good, permanent jobs to cancel out the social ills it brings (which disproportionately impact the poor). And our region is saturated with casinos such that I doubt the projections of wealth it will bring to the state. And paid sick time is a no-brainer. Employers should allow sickies time to heal without worrying about job security and encourage them to keep germs at home.
I’m voting straight Dem. It’s what I do. You’ll do what you do. To those who are usually Dems but are thinking about Charlie, I just want you to know that I worry about socially important programs in a Republican administration: education, early intervention, mental health programs, etc. All the things we agree are important in the wake of a tragedy, but then cut funding for when we want to reduce gov’t spending.
We Democrats do a really bad job of synthesizing our successes and beliefs. So here’s this infographic, to note our accomplishments (thanks SMW, for posting on FB–yes, I’m stealing my political material from Facebook. That doesn’t make me look very good, does it?):
Apologies for using my blog as a soap box. It’s not what you come here for. I know that. But just pretend we got drunk at a party and I started talking politics. It happens. And usually I get loud and spill my drink on you, so at least you escaped that outcome.
Whether we agree or not, go do your civic duty!
And here is a skunk jack-o-lantern that Herr Husband made because Das Big Boy loves skunks. Hopefully that will amuse you.
After yesterday’s emotional post (thanks for all the love in response, gang), I thought we could amuse ourselves with another favorite type of post, in which I share what people have Googled in order to stumble upon this site.
boy need hausfrau porn: With grammar like that, boy gonna be double sorry he came to an English teacher’s blog.
baby tube feeding: I did have one of those, both nasogastric and PEG/mic-key. Neither is that fun, but you get really good at either. It might be a temporary thing, in which case, yay! Most preemies only need them for a little while. Or it might be something your child needs forever if s/he has certain medical conditions. Either way, it’s great that your child can get the nutrition s/he needs. Just be careful not to let the docs overfeed your kid through the tube. You want to preserve their appetite when possible. And please, please don’t listen if a doctor tells you it’s normal that your child is vomiting constantly. Get another opinion. Keep getting opinions until you find someone who can keep your kid growing, but not puking. Else you’ll be wiping up creamed spinach barf for years to come.
2) pictures of adults wearing footie pajamas:
baby commando crawl within 8 months:
If you’re concerned about your baby’s development, you should of course talk to his/her doctor. That said, I think most people obsess about this stuff for no reason. And crawling is especially tricky. Some babies never crawl and many certainly haven’t done it, commando or otherwise, by eight months. The question to ask yourself for crawling and other tummy related skills is: Are you giving your baby enough tummy time or are you giving in when it cries because it hates tummy time. My advice (far too late if you’ve come here about your eight month old) is to start them on tummy time from birth and let them get used to it from the beginning. And don’t force it for way too long, but don’t be a sucker if they whine, either.
hipster mom: This is a really good question. Am I a hipster mom? Pretty sure living in suburbia disqualifies me. But in general, I think a hipster mom dresses in clothes that look like they could come from a thrift store. She drinks fair trade coffee and is into baby wearing, probably with a piece of cloth she sewed herself. She reads things like the wonderful Tove Jansson books to her kids (seriously, check them out). They don’t watch TV, unless it’s vintage Electric Company. She wears choppy, possibly colorful hair, big glasses, and hats. Tattoos may be involved. Quirky eye-liner is a possibility. In my suburban set, I might be a bit of a hipster mom, just like when I go back to Brooklyn, I’m a total suburbanite. In general, I think I’m best identified in contrast to my environs. Like at Dartmouth, I was a super-lefty feminist who sometimes wore a dog collar. But if I’d gotten into Brown, maybe I would have worn cable-knit and become a Republican or something (perhaps that’s taking things a bit too far).
weaning off oxygen in preemie: It will happen. It may take what feels like forever. There will be many ups and downs. But it will, in almost every single case, finally happen. And then the days of carting around a tank and taping stuff to your screaming child’s face will fade into nothing and you’ll remember his babyhood as his babyhood, not as some drawn out medical procedure.
hausfrau tube: I thought maybe these porn seekers wanted to see women doing things with a tube, like maybe a vacuum or something. It turns out, they mean tube as in YouTube. Hausfrau porn, is of course housewife porn. I did some research. Sometimes she’s hot and bored with housework, and sometimes she’s middle aged and deliberately frumped up. I like to think I fit more into the former category (I’m definitely bored with housework), but you’re not going to find porn here. I’m sorry.
Hipster clothes for big kids: Fedoras. Ironic blazers. Vintage graphic Ts. All Stars. Flannel. Skinny jeans. Glasses. Boots and dresses.
darknipple breast girl: Is this me? I like the one word darknipple. It’s like a name for a secret agent. Or a superhero. Agent Darknipple. She comes out under the cloak of night and attacks with breastmilk.
hipster glasses: I don’t wear glasses. But this is the number one search item that directs people here, so I take pity on them and post this:
tanglewood with kids: It’s awesome. Do it. You can bring your children AND wine, and if you sit far enough back you can still hear the incredible music and drink in the lush scenery (and your wine) even while your children frolic about.
rescue dose beyamethasone: Dear resident who typed this. Please go home and sleep now. You’ve spelled betamethasone wrong AND I really don’t think you should be googling this. You must have better sources of info than the general internet.
mom hausfrau tube: see above.
women post and there familie post nude: If you must know, despite my proclivities for nudity I am usually dressed as I type these posts. And my family members are in their pajamas. Nosy hole.
how do we wean our preemie off oxygen: Carefully. S/he’ll let you know when s/he’s ready. And under doctor’s supervision, obviously. Get a good pulmonologist. If you live anywhere near Boston, go to Larry Rhein.
husband sleeping carelessly: That sounds true. I don’t know what it means, exactly, but it sounds like something husbands would do.
michelin boy: I think you’ve come to the wrong blog. We’re a fairly slender family.
hipster glass: Am I dating myself if I still think a hipster glass is a can of PBR?
yuppie parents: I can help you with this one, too. Buy a stroller that costs more than $500. Hire a decorator to do your child’s room. Drive a luxury SUV. Enroll your children in lots of lessons. Buy them fancy clothing. (Note: I am guilty of some of these things. This is why I am trying to coin the term Yipster, for yuppie-hippie-hipster, which I think REALLY embodies me as a parent/human).
fucking hausfrau over 50 years tube:
I beg your pardon! I consider myself to be a young-looking thirty-six!
feeding on cpap: It can be done. Including breastfeeding. Don’t let them tell you otherwise.
commando crawling with gastric tube: Totally doable.
photos of three week old babies: here you go:
puppet body pattern breast: I wish I could sew. There are a LOT of breast puppets on the internet, but a quick search yielded no patterns. I’m sorry.
whats a yuppie parent: see above
liebchen vom lande boob: I don’t know what this person wanted, but I think it sounds like a charming, buxom German cartoon character.
three weeks old baby: apparently this is something for which I am known.
oma hausfrau tube: My Oma wasn’t that kind of girl, thank you very much!
state of wonder review: I wrote one.
godasbig.com: Not sure what this is or how it landed you here, but I will tell you religion is something I don’t really do.
rescue betamethasone dose: see above. The jury is out on whether rescue doses actually work (or it was when I was up on this stuff two years ago). Most docs think it’s worth trying. Any possible side effects aren’t going to matter if s/he can’t get over that breathing hurdle.
three week old baby: I mean they’re cute at three weeks but get over it already. You’re as bad as the porn dudes. And dudettes. I don’t want to assume.
brockton fair 2014: You missed it. It was awesome. You should totally go next year.
Hopefully I’ve helped those wayward searchers. And to those of you who look for me on purpose, thank you. A million thank yous.
You guys, Herr Husband cleaned our pantry tonight (with an assist from me–seriously. I was the one who found the copy of Are You My Mother? that I’d had to buy from the library because it was lost.). Anyway, he found–no lie–thirty-two boxes of pasta (opened and unopened). Apologies to Nanny Sunshine who once cleaned our pantry. Please know that every time Gigi comes over she says, “Poor Nanny Sunshine, after all the hard work she put into this pantry…”
I tried to argue that it made me a good mother because I was prepared for a disaster in which we needed food stores. But really, I know this is insane. Das Big Boy won’t even eat pasta unless it’s macaroni and cheese (NB, Dr. G: I only feed him the organic kind…). We also have six boxes of that (not included in previous pasta totals, which also omitted Asian noodles in what Herr Husband referred to as, “an effort to be generous.”)
Now you could go all #FailedFeminist on me, and point out that I shouldn’t be blamed for this excess, because it’s not my duty to stock our kitchen or clean our pantry. But to that I respond, a) obviously I don’t clean our pantry and b) Herr Husband does a lot of chores. Like all of the laundry. And anything involving cat poop, because like many a smart lady, I’ve ridden that Toxoplasmosis fear straight out of pregnancy and right into the rest of my life. This is particularly unfair as we have a cat with IBS who either can’t or won’t control his bowels. I digress. The truth is, grocery shopping is a chore that I actually love (as evidenced by my apparent uncontrollable glee every time I see organic whole wheat fusilli (6 boxes)), and therefore I do pretty much all of it. So yes, I am to blame here.
And now, because I believe it’s my duty to share my kids’ cuteness once per post, here is a picture of DBB at a recent bowling birthday party.
I think the pic is adorable, but befouled by HH’s Birkenstocks. Now look, I “rocked” (can you rock Birks?) purple Birkenstocks with wool socks in 1994 as well as the next fake hippie adolescent, but that doesn’t make them ok, right? And then ‘Burban Bestie informed me that I was wrong. That Birkenstocks are indeed in style. Oh my. What a lot of learning I have to do. Still, don’t expect me to bust out a pair anytime soon (Full disclosure: I also had them in blue, and in black clogs, and I only finally got rid of them in 2009 when we moved to Brooklyn). But all of my footwear convos with ‘Burban Bestie have made me yearn for the other shoe of my tortured teen years: the Doc Marten. So perhaps you’ll see me stomping around in those instead. And then I’ll really be ready for the apocalypse, what with my hoarded food and steel toes.
Watch out, zombies/angels of judgement. I’m ready for you.
Deine Hipster Hausfrau