On One Week at Home


This first week has been the most joyful, rewarding and scary week of my life. One week ago today we brought our baby girl home from the hospital.

I slept less than I have in years. I have never been more scared than in years. I cried more than in years. I’ve disliked my husband more than I have in years.

Yet, I also feel incredibly happy and more in love with my husband than ever before.

I think coming home with a new baby, whether a full term baby or a preemie, is a time when one feels a full spectrum of emotions more than any other time. With a preemie, the fear and anxiety might be heightened to the extreme though.

Coming home one week ago was a day that I had been waiting for since June 21. I cried when the neonatologist told me that he was discharging us from the hospital. I didn’t cry because I was excited. I cried because I suddenly got very scared. I wasn’t ready.

I hadn’t been ready. Everything happened so quickly from the moment my water broke to the long wait and most especially when they told me that it was time for me to push!

Even though I had officially been a mommy for 12 days, I needed more time to learn how to be a mommy to a preemie. The nursing staff taught us how to bathe her, change her diaper, feed her and care for her most basic needs. But, we never had the chance to take the infant CPR class or the child safety class we had signed up for and cancelled because of my bed rest.

More importantly, we didn’t have the fancy computers to monitor her heart rate, oxygen levels and respirations. That is what terrified me the most. In the hospital, my anxiety level rose each time the alarm went off on her monitor. But I knew that a nurse would come over and calmly check her to make sure she was ok. She always was fine, which was why she was going home with us.

That first night at home and every night since I have been terrified to put her to sleep in her own bed. Preemies make a lot of noise. Their gastrointestinal tract is still developing so they process food differently and it makes them grunt and groan a lot. (Maybe full term babies do this too? I don’t know.) It is a scary sound at first but even scarier is she doesn’t make that sound.

She is such a tiny girl that it is hard to feel her breathing through her swaddle unless she is on my chest, so I feel better with her on me. But I’m also terrified that I’ll fall asleep and she’ll slide off me, and so I stay awake. I blog 🙂 I read my Kindle. Sometimes I take her downstairs and we watch TV but for the most part we snuggle in bed with MH sleeping next to me.

This is why I am looking into a night nurse to help us. I need to get more sleep. I need to learn to trust that she will be ok and I think a transition from a very monitored baby to one without any monitoring was too much for me to handle. A night nurse can help me with that transition.

I already addressed her feeding schedule, which is pretty much tied to my pumping schedule, both of which are aggressive. The doctors want her weight gain to be on par as if she were still in utero, which is half to whole pound per week. She had her first pediatrician’s appointment last Friday and she has gained nearly a pound since she was born, which is great! My tiny girl is growing up! We will go in for once weekly weigh-ins for the foreseeable future.

So this first week has been tough emotionally and physically. It doesn’t help that this time of year is the end of the fiscal year for many of MH’s clients and so it is extremely busy for him and he can’t get away. Because he’s having to go into work, my mom has been helping me with the 3am and 6am feedings, which is great but makes for a tired mommy and grandma! I can’t wait until he can help relieve my mom a bit.

At first I had been hesitant to have my mom come and stay for so long but now I can’t imagine her not here with us. She is planning to stay for as long as we need her and I have no idea when that will end 🙂 MH has been great with her too!! I can imagine how difficult it can be to have your mother in law around all the time and he is handling it all in stride.

The good news is that we all are getting into a routine and rhythm. It is getting easier and my anxiety is going down. It helps for me to nap during the day and it helps me to cry it out too! Being a mom is the hardest job I’ve held and I’ve had some challenging roles with a lot of responsibility in the past. This is the hardest and I know it will be the most rewarding when she is able to better interact.

Roo’s only fault is that she was born too early. I can’t wait for her little body and system to catch up! We have a beautiful and strong little girl on our hands an I can’t wait to see what joys life with her will bring us!

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Baby Roo’s Birth Story: Part Two


Two hours later we got word that there were no signs of infection. However, one test came back borderline and so I would be monitored very closely. We would need to settle in for the long haul as I would not be leaving the hospital until the baby arrived.

The high risk OB came back and told us their goals:

1. Get through the next 24 hours without me having a baby or showing signs of an infection, if those developed I would be induced immediately or they would take me for a “crash” c-secrion
2. Get through one week without having a baby
3. Reach 34 weeks and then decide a course of action

Our primary goal for the day was to make it through that first 24 hours without going into active labor or showing any further signs of infection.

I sent MH to work for a couple of hours and to get his computer. He also went home and brought back a bag of things for me. While he was gone, the head of neonatology came by my room and walked me through the various stats based on my current gestational age of 31 weeks and 5 days. The survival stats were hopeful and very positive at nearly 100%! He explained what would happen at delivery, what the different possible procedures could happen at the birth depending in the baby’s vital signs and what to expect once she was in the NICU, where he said for us not to expect her to leave until around her estimated due date, August 4. He warned that it could be a long journey for us but he was confident that given her age that she would do just fine.

And so we held our breath that night and every night the next seven days. I was monitored continuously each day three times a day or more as needed. I had multiple ultrasounds to make sure her head continued to face down and to measure the remaining amniotic fluid, which fluctuated throughout my stay until the last u/s that I had which showed me closer to zero than ever before.

During the time I was in the hospital the staff was amazing. My doctors were super nice and would stop by even if I wasn’t on their rotation just to see how I was doing. The nurses with the exception of one were terrific!

Even though we moved to Seattle not that long ago, the few friends that we have here were amazing – stopping by to bring snacks and magazines and to keep me company. One friend even had a baby while I was there and I got wheel chair privileges to visit them!

Overall, after the exciting and scary start to my hospital stay, the time was uneventful and really boring. Well, boring for the time being…

To be continued…

On Feeding a Preemie


One of the harder parts of having a preemie is feeding one. Depending in the age of the baby when born helps determine the maturity of her suck, swallow, breath coordination. A baby must be able to do all of those in coordination successfully to leave the hospital. Roo did well and that, along with the other things she needed to do, allowed us to leave the hospital when she did.

Before all of this happened, my thought was to exclusively breast feed her. I was super concerned about what type of pump I should buy as a mom who would be at home and would want to pump only enough to be able to leave her for date nights and other fun activities but still nurse her. In the end that mattered very little 🙂

It all changed as soon as Roo was born. Because of her gestational age at birth, 33 weeks and 5 days, Roo’s sucking technique wasn’t fully mature and still isn’t. In the hospital, she had a feeding tube to ensure she received a full feed based in a feeding protocol developed by the NICU team based in her age and weight. She was able to take most of her food from a bottle but would sometimes need some support from the tube.

I wasn’t allowed to nurse her until four days before she left the hospital and even then it was only once a day and for a short period of time. All other feedings were by the bottle using my pumped breast milk and a calorie supplement.

Because I wasn’t allowed to nurse Roo until much later, I was given a hospital grade breast pump to use and take home with me (rented). I was put on an every three hour pump schedule, which means I have to pump for 20 minutes every three hours plus Roo has to eat about every three hours. This is definitely a two person job, which means either my mom or MH has to get up with me in the night.

(don’t get me started on the 2 hour schedule I was on in the beginning to get my milk to come in!)

I’m exhausted. Pumping takes from start to finish about 30 minutes. I have to clean the parts every time to be safe for Roo. I can’t wait until I can just pop Roo onto my breast. I know there can be challenges with nursing but it’ll be so much easier than juggling both pumping and feeding her!!

I go see a location consultant on Tuesday. She is someone a former preemie mom and a March of Dimes volunteer told me about who is apparently a genius when it comes to helping preemies figure out nursing at a premature age. I’m excited!

I’ll also looking into hiring a night nurse to help me get over the anxiety I have with putting Roo down to sleep at night and to help with the middle of the night feedings. Right now I don’t sleep. I just hold her and then I switch off with my mom. I have to admit that I don’t trust MH not to fall asleep with her. That’s terrible isn’t it?

Feeding a preemie, my preemie, is a challenge for me. I know there are many others who have even harder times with feedings so I can’t complain too much but it is hard! It is demanding and it is exhausting. My body can hardly keep up – though one positive is that I look just about like I did when I was only 12 weeks pregnant! I’ve lost a lot of my baby belly that fast because of this demanding pumping schedule.

I love it though! I love the few minutes when Roo does latch on. I love being able to provide for her. I love being a mommy to my baby Roo!

Xo,
Michelle

Baby Roo’s Birth Story: Part One


Early on Thursday, June 7, I woke up and thought that I had wet the bed. I went to the toilet and crawled back into bed to go back to sleep but quickly realized that I was still “peeing” myself. Duh! I wasn’t peeing myself. I phoned the doctor on call who said to put on a pad and if I soaked through it within one hour to meet her at the hospital.

I put on a pad and lay down on the sofa. Within 10 minutes it was soaked through the pad, my underwear and my nightgown. I called my brother, the doctor, and told him what was happening. He said that I should wake up MH and go to the hospital right away.

I woke MH, who was dead asleep, and told him what had happened and he went straight into business mode. He packed himself a bag so he could go to work that morning and we got into the car. I remember talking with him about this being a good practice run for the real deal and that we were lucky that we didn’t have to deal with traffic as it was so early!

Once we arrived at the hospital, I had MH park the car while I asked the front desk where we should go. For some reason, I declined the wheel chair ride to the maternity ward. Looking back, I should have accepted it but I was in denial and walked the long walk.

As soon as we got to maternity, we checked in and they were waiting for us. They took us to a birthing suite and asked me to change into a gown. I had to use the restroom and in doing so I realized that I was also bleeding. As soon as I told the nurse, she said something like “oh your water definitely broke” and I promptly burst into tears.

As soon as I climbed into the bed, they did some sort of litmus test to confirm the fluid exiting my body was amniotic fluid, which it was. Almost immediately, I was asked to sign a number of papers, told we would need to transfer to the hospital that handled high risk pregnancies and had the level 3 NICU and that they were going to do several procedures to me.

The first procedure was to give me an ultrasound to check the position of the baby – she was head down. The second was to hook me up to an IV, where I would be given magnesium sulfate, which would slow any labor down as well as provide the baby with a boost to her brain if I were to deliver her early. The third was to give me a sterile forcep check, which confirmed that I was leaking amniotic fluid (again) and that I was potentially 1 cm dilated. And the fourth and final step was to give me the first of two steroid shots to help the baby’s lungs mature rapidly.

There is a side effect of magnesium sulfate that gives one hot flashes and makes you feel a little loopy in the head. I was given a push of four bags of magnesium, which means they rapidly pushed the four bags through the IV. I felt and acted a little drunk while this was happening, again, I was in denial and was dealing by being silly.

As soon as the IV push was finished, the ambulance arrived to transport me to the hospital. The nurses wished me good luck and off I went with MH left to fend for himself to find his way to this other hospital.

Once we arrived at the other hospital, I was taken immediately to labor and delivery. Some of the same exams and tests were taken there. A very nice doctor examined me and confirmed that I was one cm dilated and that by all sounds, I could potentially deliver that day. I was hooked up to a machine that I came to know intimately by the time I left. The machine monitored both Roo’s heart rate as well as any contractions that I might be having. At the time, I was contracting every 3-5 minutes but I wasn’t feeling any of them.

The doctor told me that I needed to have an amniocentesis test done immediately to determine if I had an infection. As soon as she said those words, I got scared. She told me though that the risks for the amnio that hold true at 20 weeks also hold true for them except the largest risk is that the needle accidentally breaks the bag of waters, which causes death at 20 weeks, but since my water had already broken on its own that risk was already removed. I consented to the exam and held onto MH’s hand tight. Within three minutes of me consenting to the exam, it was over. I didn’t want to see the needle going in so I have no idea how large or small it was and in fact the “pain” that I felt from the steroid shot was worse than the amnio needle going in.

We were told it would take 2 hours for the results to come back and in the meantime we should eat breakfast and try to relax. Right?! If the results found I had an infection they would induce me immediately and if not then we would talk about what options were relevant. My head was spinning. I was terrified and confused.

I might be having a baby that day? I was 31 weeks and 5 days pregnant. I wasn’t ready emotionally, physically or literally! We had just moved into our new house.

To be continued…

Safe Zone: Pumping bustier (updated)


Just gotta say it: I invested in a hands free pumping bustier and am currently using it as I listen to fireworks going off. It is the BEST investment for nursing yet!

If you plan to pump a lot, I can’t recommend it more. I can’t remember the brand but it isn’t the m.edela one. I’ll try to remember to include the link sometime soon. If I forget and you want it, remind me in the comments.

Since Roo isn’t able to nurse more than once or twice a day right now I am pumping a lot and to have my hands free is awesome!!! I can blog 😉

I would totally tweet about this but I’m not sure the general public would get as excited about this as some of you might 🙂

ETA: name of bustier is Simple Wishes and it was purchased from di.apers.com

And, we are home!!


Photo of Roo’s first car ride home from the hospital yesterday afternoon.

I am exhausted from a sleepless night of being so afraid that I’d miss something going wrong. As annoying as the machines and wires were they provided a comfort that cannot be replicated at home!!

A lot more to come in posts to follow. For now, I love being a mommy and I’m trying to take everything in stride. Clearly needing to catch up sleep and breathe from holding it all in over the past month.

Thanks for being on this journey with me! It is just the beginning!

Xox,
Michelle

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I would like to introduce…


Madeleine Luciana who is thriving and we are more in love than thought possible! I promise more later but am dealing with my mom who arrived on Friday, trying to figure out a new routine of a 3 hour pump schedule to get my milk to come in, NICU visits and trying to get some semblance of life caught up on at home.

I can’t wait to post her incredibly fast birth story – she was ready!! And to share how she is thriving in the NICU. We start kangaroo care today, if she continued to do as well overnight as she has been doing!

Will post more as soon as possible!! I think of you and the strength that you all have and continue to give me, often!!

Xo,
Michelle

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Let’s Talk About Pelvic Floor Exercises


Pelvic Floor Exercises also known as kegel exercises are hard for me to remember to do. I know how important they are to help maintain the strength of the uterus and the bladder. Maintaining the strength of my uterus is important but my bladder is what I care about more. Let me tell you a story…

Three years ago, I broke my foot. I’d been training for a half marathon and was running a lot. I went with friends to Alta in Utah for a long weekend of skiing and struggled with my ski boots. The weekend after my ski trip, I fell ill with the flu. A friend from DC was in San Francisco for work and I dragged myself out of bed after three days of not leaving my house to meet her for dinner. On my way back to my car, I stepped off a curb and fell to the ground for no reason whatsoever (or so I thought). Totally embarrassing to be caught falling in front of a bunch of strangers, I quickly got up and drove home. I walked up the three flights of stairs to my apartment (no elevator) and once home looked down at my foot to see why it was bothering me. Well, it was about triple the size that it should be and quickly turning black and blue. To keep this long story short, it was broken. I probably had a stress fracture that was exacerbated by the half marathon training and the skiing. It was a non-weight bearing injury, which meant I was on crutches and off my foot for a while. A friend picked me up for dinner one night and we met other friends in Berkeley – which is across the Bay Bridge and about 30 minutes away (depending on traffic). We ate and drank well that evening and on the way home we got caught in traffic. I had to pee. At home, I struggled as usual to get up to my apartment. I was tipsy (OK, I was probably drunk) and it took me about 10 minutes longer than it should have to get up those stairs…I started to giggle and laugh at how ridiculous my situation was – alone in the stairwell of my apartment building, urgently needing to pee. Needless to say, I didn’t make it to the toilet. I was laughing too hard at myself and peed my pants in the entryway of my apartment.

Sooooo….I realize that this example is an extreme example of my fear of peeing in my pants! BUT, it certainly is possible! I need to practice my kegels every day. I need to remind myself to do better. I need to not pee my pants 🙂

Oh, and in between, MH and I met and started dating 🙂

Wanted to Be Team Green


Being team green would mean keeping Roo’s gender a surprise until the delivery room. I think the sex of a baby a secret is one of the last true surprises that we can have in life.

However, MH is steadfast on wanting to know if Roo will be a boy or a girl now. He offered to find out for himself and keep it a secret. Between the two of us, if anyone would be able to keep it a secret from the other, he would be the one. On the other hand, I would find out and an hour later would somehow manage to tell MH. I thought about agreeing to him finding out alone but I know that I would just so jealous that he knew that I’d break down and beg him to tell me. So, we agreed to find out for this one and IF (yes, that’s a BIG if) we have a second one we will be team green for our second.

I then decided that we would keep the gender between us but then I realized that there’s no way I could keep it a secret from my mom and then I would start to slip up with everyone else, so I think we’re just going to tell. It’s too hard! But, whether we share or not is definitely still up in the air.

We find out on March 12!

Did you find out or were you team green? If you did find out, would you keep it between you and your husband?