Today we received our best holiday gift yet: a visit from Nanny Sunshine. You may remember her as the former student/goddess who kept our lives in order while my cervix and the rest of me lazed about. I remember her as one of my favorite people in the universe. And yes, she’s as luminous as ever. Wise and warm and kind.
And it was even better than when she took care of us, because we could gab and drink sparkling Shiraz and eat cheese without assessing it for pasteurization.
She hadn’t seen Das Big Boy in fourteen months, and yet he was still so deeply happy to see her, which did my heart good as we know he can be a bit on the shy side. And although Little Liebchen was initially mistrustful (she thinks all women are here to babysit, and her instincts about NS weren’t entirely wrong given NS’s former role in our life), she quickly warmed up to her in a way I’ve seen her fall in love with few people. Either she remembers Nanny Sunshine’s voice from in utero, or she’s an excellent judge of character. Maybe both.
So it was a full heart sort of day, which ended with a trip to Target where the children behaved quite well and were each allowed to pick out a toy for Toys for Tots. Das Big Boy is still very into the concept of giving things to “kids who don’t have any toys.” Let us hope he retains this spirit of generosity throughout his life.
May your homes be filled with the extra love this season can bring, as ours was today. And if you have a little extra love to give, Jess’s family could still use our help. Her sister Laura was kind enough to comment here. Please continue to send her all of your good thoughts, love, prayers, white light, positive energy, or whatever it is that you deal in. And thank you to all of you who have helped them already. You’re good folks, you are.
Sending some of my extra love to you all,
Deine Hipster Hausfrau
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.
Well, I got my take home baby! Huzzah! But my sense of victory was short-lived. After a blissful night at home (during which Wee Madchen decided that 10pm to 3 am was happy hour at the dairy bar known as my breasts), we have had to return to the hospital because someone decided she looked good in yellow. I’m all for avoiding overly gendered pink stuff, but wishing Wee Madchen had found a different way to express herself.
That’s right. She has jaundice. Not a scary case, but enough that she needs a dose of phototherapy, likely for 24-48 hours. So we are, as we call it, at the beach. Also known as under the blue lights at Newton Wellesley hospital, which is thankfully closer to home than Beth Israel, where I delivered.
As her loving mom (& food source) I’m here with her. They limit her nursing time to 20 minutes per session to maximize her under the lights time. Don’t worry, I’ve already told them that formula and even expressed breastmilk bottles are off the table should the nursing restrictions cause a problem. The med student to whom I said this was surprised, but I told her I’d dropper or syringe feed her if need be. No offense to the lovely med students in my life, but I did a NICU rotation with 114 consecutive 16 hour days. I know more about this shit than you do. And I will not disrupt my nursing relationship with my daughter over a treatable case of jaundice. So there! OK, down off my soapbox. I’m just REALLY tired of the medical establishment pretending to be all “breast is best” and then pushing formula at every turn–more on this later, as it was an issue after my delivery, too. Particularly surprising after they were way more supportive of natural childbirth than I’d expected.
So life is a bit bumpy. I had so looked forward to settling in as our family of four, and struggling with the mere mayhem of a new baby and a toddler. Das Big Boy is no great fan of his sister, by the way. When he woke up and she was still here, he was mad. And now he’ll be doubly confused when she is gone, then reappears. I think he keeps hoping I’ll put her back inside. But he is getting accustomed to her and will at least talk about her now.
She is a ball of teeny baby delight. Snuggly and feisty and a good little eater! And she totally rolled her eyes at the doctors today. It’s hard being here because I can’t hold her, but once we’re home it’s going to be a voracious mix of skin-to-skin, nursing, and baby-wearing.
Apologies for the format of the post and any typos. It’s coming from my phone.
They handed her straight to me (no NICU folks required). Magic!!!
And yes, we did it drug-free!
She’s adorable and gorgeous and feisty already.
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!!!
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?
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!
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!
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.