Tuesday, November 30, 2010

More Hubby Bashing

If the Hubby had verbalized what his actions would be for the past couple of days, it would go like this:

I'm going to wash the dog in the big bathtub, instead of one of the other two or the shower.  I won't bother rinsing the dog hair out of the tub when I'm done, so you'll need to wash the bathtub before you can bathe the boys.  In fact, I think I'll leave the bath toys in the tub while I wash the dog, so you will need to wash the dog hair and crud off of all of it.

I know I keep acting like you losing weight will solve all of our marriage problems, but I'm going to make homemade pizza.  I'm also going to act slightly annoyed that you don't cook dinner anymore, even though I specifically asked you not to, since we are both supposed to be on liquid diets.

I'm going to work from home.  I will close myself in the office.  Every so often, I will come out of the office, say hi to the guys, then disappear.  This will leave you to deal with two screaming babies when they realize I have closed them out.  Good luck with that.

In fact, why don't I wait until they are playing happily, leaving you and your laptop cord alone for a while so you can actually get some work done outside of naptime, then make one of my appearances?  I'd hate to see you get too much work done.  After I disappear, you'll be able to cuddle with babies.  That will, in fact, be all you can do so you may as well just shut down your computer as soon as I appear.

Oh, and you know how K is teething and both the guys are sick and it's hard for them to fall asleep?  Well, I'll wait until K has finished his naptime bottle and is dozing off, but crying every now and then as his urge to sleep fights his tooth pain.  Then I will emerge and ask you to take the guys into the bedroom so they are not in the background during my call.  I won't think about the fact that they do not nap in our room because they're so excited to be in there.  I won't bother with the fact that our bedroom is not babyproofed, at my request, so it is a nerve-wracking experience keeping them out of everything.  I won't worry about the fact that the cat has been sick all over the bedroom over the past few days, and while it has been spot-cleaned, the entire room should be shampooed before babies crawl in it.

I certainly won't worry about the possible consequences of interrupting naptime -- that they may not nap and may be terrors all evening.  I'll be sure and be extra annoyed if they're cranky this evening.

Of course, you could use this time to bathe them, except that the bathtub is full of dog hair.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Woman Who Broke My Heart

I don't even remember her name, but a woman broke my heart this week.

First, K broke my heart by finally starting to walk on his own.
Then, he broke my heart again by falling flat on his face on the kitchen tile.  My heart was further split upon the realization that he had broken one of his front teeth in the fall.  You know - the teeth that are fought and cried and screamed for, that are gained only through several sleepless nights, baby orajel, rocking, ice, and more baby Motrin than I'd like to admit.

Those teeth.  That's what broke.  We were lucky, however, that the tooth did not break so badly that it exposed the nerve or anything.  K is not in pain, not sensitive to heat or cold, and is able to eat normally.  Just to be safe, we took him to the dentist.  It was at the dentist's office that I met the woman who would break my heart.

The dentist we found is great!  They have a separate play room for little guys, so we went in there and I unstrapped the guys from their stroller.  They explored the new environment, pulling everything off the shelves (natch) and generally had a good time.  While we were there, a woman showed up with her little boy.  Her boy could have been my guys' long lost triplet (well, not LONG lost, but, you know . . . )  He was their height, was moving around with about the same grace, and making the same types of noises.  His facial features had that 'pixie' quality to them that is so common among preemies, which made him resemble K somewhat.

The mom and I got to talking.  Her boy is a month older than mine.  She asked if my guys were early.  I said they were born at 27 weeks.  She said, "He was born at 27 weeks, too.  And he was a twin."

I felt like I had taken a punch to the gut, the past tense of the verb not lost on me.  He WAS a twin.  Hubby would later ask me how she lost the other one.  I had not asked.  Instead, we discussed what our guys are doing now, when they learned to walk, etc.  She was there for the same reason I was there -- her guy had split his teeth learning to walk.  I'm sure she had come to as much peace as is possible with what happened to her other guy.  We talked a little about what caused our prematurity, and what kinds of devices the kids came home on.  It felt good to have an actual verbal conversation with someone in a similar boat to mine, but I had a difficult time concentrating.  It is all too easy to let myself forget the very real possibility that one or both of my guys might not have made it.
I have been working on a blog about an upcoming surgery that K needs.  It is a real pity-party blog.  In the blog, I do mention that I know how very fortunate we are that the issues my kids have are not very severe, but that knowing that doesn't make it less stressful to hear the doctor tell you your kid needs another surgery.

Now that entire sentiment feels empty.

Needless to say, I just about squeezed the life out of my guys that evening.  They did not appreciate it, but they can suck it up.  As far as I'm concerned, they will never be too big for Mommy Snuggles, and Mommy needed some snuggles.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Why a Nipple Shield Made Me Cry

My guys are formula fed. Some day I may tell the story of how that came about. Today, however is the day for a closet cleaning story.

Realizing that the nursery closet is completely full and much of it's contents are no longer used, I decided to remove the obsolete stuff. I wasn't going all crazy and organizing or anything, just getting rid of stuff.

The top shelf was almost full of breast pumps and accessories. I was a slave to these devices for three long months, and just looking at them again brought a wave of conflicting emotions to the surface. I sorted through it all, preparing to sell it. I found several pump parts, a tub of hand sanitized, a pen, sheets of the bar coded labels I used to identify my milk at the hospital, and a nipple shield.

It was the nipple shield that reduced me to a moist blubbering mess on the nursery floor.

H was able to start trying to bottle feed before K was. It was a difficult process for him, learning to eat instead of being fed through a tube. He would try to fall asleep during the process and didn't seem to understand what he was supposed to do. Even though the hospital encouraged breastfeeding, it often did not seem practical because of how difficult just bottle feeding was. Still, I tried the breast once a day for a couple of weeks.

The lactation specialist was the person who gave me the shield. I'd had no luck getting H to latch. With the help of this clear rubbery shield, however, H was finally able to drink from the tap. He did not get much and soon it was time to tube him again, but for a few moments we were so close to one another.

After a few days, I was able to try with K. He did not need the shield.

I only nursed my guys a couple of times. The problem with nursing preemies is that it is hard to tell exactly how much they are getting. Also, as I mentioned, just learning to eat is difficult for them. In addition to this, my guys had bad reflux. Their milk had to have a thickener added to it.

Figuring I would have time to nurse directly later on, I kept my slavery to the pump alive.

A couple of months later, guys still in the hospital, I abandoned my pumps. My guys would now be formula fed. It was a painful decision that saddened me deeply, but it was a decision I never regretted.  I have mo doubt that switching to formula at that time was the best thing for us.

My regret is that I had not been able to make more attempts to feed directly.   The handful of times I was able to put one of my guys to breast were so special and magical. I wish I had more of those memories.

Here's how they eat now, picture taken at early Thanksgiving, after eating themselves into little comas:

Friday, November 19, 2010

Our Birth Story

It is difficult to glide over the years of fertility treatments and difficult pregnancy, but I will do my best to get to the point. I will say we tried for six years to get pregnant, finally conceiving our twins through IVF. My pregnancy had some difficulties, but I has a cerclage placed and had experienced no symptoms for several weeks. My doctors and I felt my problems were behind me. I had reached my 26th week, the gestational age to which Google attributed a 90% survival rate. I had experienced no cervical shortening, and the specialist even laughed that it looked like we didn't even need the cerclage. My days of bedrest and fear were behind me. The worst days of my life - waiting in bed, checking off the weeks of my babies' development, feeling the kicks and wondering if we would make it - were over. I would need to take it easy, but I could enjoy the rest of the pregnancy we had worked so hard to achieve.

The relief was short lived. I barely had time to get back into reading the pregnancy and baby name books I had set aside during my darkest days. On the last day of my 26th week, I felt odd. I was not in pain, except for the loose joints and lower back soreness that was par for the course at this point. Instead, I was having waves of exhaustion that forced me to sit down. Every so often, I also felt some tightening. I recalled the doctors' words about false labor. My cramping was not coming at regular intervals or with increasing frequency. I was not in any pain or experiencing any bleeding, both of which were supposed to happen if cervical changes put pressure on the cerclage. Certain nothing worrisome was happening, I replenished my jug of water and sat with a book.

After all, I would know if I was in labor, right?  How could you not know?

I soon realized the strange sensation wasn't going away. Instead of timing the irregular tight feelings, I decided to time the waves of exhaustion. Nine minutes apart. On the nose. We headed to the hospital.

Even at this point, we were just going to be safe. We thought it was false. We expected to repeat what happened the past couple of times we went to the hospital. Usually, they strap me into a device that measures contractions. I tell them when I'm feeling crampy, they say it's not showing up on the machine, they watch me for an hour, then we attribute my symptoms to the chili dog I had for supper and I go home. I feel sheepish but relieved and sleep well.

On this trip, the usual nurse greeted us and strapped me in. We joked about chili dogs  A wave hit me, and before I could say anything, the nurse said she could see the contraction in the monitor.

This I when I started to get nervous. My symptoms had NEVER shown up on their monitors before this. Hubby called my folks to let them know we were at the hospital and it looked like I was having Some kind of contractions. At this point we knew something was up, but we still thought it was spmething minor and that we'd be sent home soon.

After seeing my contractions on the monitor, the nurse set me in stirrups and examined me. She was only "down there" for a moment before she stood up, looked at me wide eyed, and told me I was at 8 centimeters. She said they would give me something to try to stop the labor, but, "sweetie, these babies are coming tonight."

Panic set in. The world went flat. Obviously this was a nightmare. I would wake up. I would wake up. My perfectly healthy 26 week babies would not be forced out of my body for reasons unknown. It wouldn't happen. It was not happening.

I hadn't taken any childbirth classes. What if I had to deliver before the doctor arrived to do the c-section?  Why hadn't we gotten the steroid shot that would develop their lungs?  Where were we even going?  Who were all these people suddenly in the room?  Nurses and technicians surrounded me, their conversation buzzed around me, but none of their words made contact with me.

My husband said his parents were coming. From miles away, I heard my tiny voice ask about my own parents. He dialed and handed me the phone. My dad told me they had already gotten dressed and would be on their way.  

The rest of the night I remember as kind of a strange montage of events, isolated scenes with no context.

I heard the nurse say she could see the head. Hubby said, "she just means she can tell where the head is.". Nope. She could actually see H's head.

The ultrasound guy came and was told we has no time and he'd have to meet us in the delivery room.

My thumbprints were taken.

I asked if I could use the restroom, and was told I could not stand or even sit up for any reason. The nurse said she would give me a catheter. I asked about painkillers. She said the catheter would hurt much less than my labor. I did not tell her that I didn't have any labor pain.

At some point, I was rushed to a maternity/birthing room. There the ultrasound guy confirmed the position of the babies while Hubby signed paperwork. They told us, "dad needs to sign these.". We both said, "my dad's not here yet."

I was wheeled into the operating room. They put the hairnet thing on me as we rushed down the hall.

I kept thinking they would give me something to relax me, but no. I was immersed  in the hard cold reality of my fear. The operating room was bright and felt huge. A small army of people rushed around. They seemed flustered, which scared me more.

I was so very cold.

I was afraid of the spinal, but it did nor hurt like the one I'd had before. It was quick, and then I was numb.

The anesthesiologist was annoyed at being called in the middle of the night.

My husband appeared, clad in paper gown. I'm sure he was wearing a mask, but in my memory I can see his face. I was so relieved to see him again.

My doctor appeared. His finger was braced from a golf injury. I flooded with relief. It was time. Everything was ready. Everyone was here.

I concentrated on keeping my breathing steady. I asked if it was normal for my face to feel flushed. When I asked this, I saw fear in my husband's eyes. I had never seen that before in al of our years together. I suddenly realized I was being cut open, that all three of us were in danger. My husband . . . I cannot imagine what he was going through.

The doctor and anesthesiologist discussed golf.

The doctor asked what the first Baby's name was, then announced, "he has been born, and is peeing on me." a moment later, I felt an odd deflating sensation as my second son was delivered.

Hubby left me to go to the guys' bedsides. The nurses were a flurry of activity over there.

As my surgery finished, the neonatologist came to speak with me. Both boys were alive, and were taking breaths. They would need to be placed on ventilators and were on their way to the NICU. I asked if I could see them. H had already been taken away, but the doc hollered for the nurse to let me glimpse K. As the nurse rushed him from the room, she held him up so I could see him. From across the impossibly large operating room, I saw a small bundle of blankets with a tiny face. Then he was gone. Hubby went with them. I was alone.

As I was wheeled back to my room, I passed by our families who had arrived and were waiting. My dad stood as I went by. The relief on his face as he saw me just about killed me. I called out, "did you see them?  How do they look?" We went by too quickly for me to hear the answer. I was taken back to my room, where family joined me in waiting for my husband to get back with news of the boys. I had never felt so alone and empty.

Less than three hours after our arrival at the hospital, my boys were born and taken to intensive care. It was early morning of exactly 27 weeks gestation - the first day of our third trimester.   I would meet my sons later in the day, and together the four of is would embark on the unimaginable experience of a long term NICU stay.

Monday, November 15, 2010

My Preemies

My preemies were born at 27 weeks gestation, weighing 2lbs 11oz and 2lbs 8oz. 

My preemies were not able to meet me in the delivery room. We met a few hours later, once they were stabilized. 

My preemies spent the first day of their lives hooked up to a ventilator, and their first couple of months on other oxygen support. 

My preemies spent the first three months of their lives in a hospital. 

My preemies were so delicate that lifting them too much during a diaper change could lead to brain hemorrhage. 

My preemies frequently stopped breathing and had heart rate slowdowns requiring stimulation to wake them up. 

My preemies were unable to eat at first, and were fed through an IV. Eventually they graduated to tube feedings, then bottle feedings. 

My preemies could not regulate body temperature. A sensor taped to their skin signalled their isolettes to warm up or cool down. 

My preemies did not meet each other until they were a couple of months old. 

My preemies endured regular blood tests, transfusions, infections, skin that was constantly irritated or broken from monitors and such. 

My babies are now fourteen months old and are within normal height and weight ranges. 

My babies like sweet potatoes, tuna, hamburger, banana, plums, and cheese sandwiches. 

My babies feed themselves with their hands and are learning to use spoons. 

My babies love music. 

My babies chase each other up and down the hallway. 

My babies occasionally get a little rash from swimming or from playing in the grass. 

My babies have the best laughs. 

My babies are walking. WALKING. 

I can't pinpoint exactly when they stopped being preemies, but I know I know longer think of them as such.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Advice to Friends and Family of NICU Parents

My guys were born at 27 weeks and spent three months in the NICU. The NICU experience is like nothing I had experienced, and is nothing I would wish on anybody. I do know, however, that premature birth happens too often. With that in mind, I compiled the following list,which I hope will help those with friends or family in the NICU. 

1.  We need you to celebrate the new life. We are grateful for your sympathy; our situation is unspeakably difficult. More than your sympathy, however, we need your joy. We have a new member of our family, one (or two or three) we have been anticipating and loving for quite some time. Although the child may be  ill and there is a possibility of our lives being touched only briefly, that child deserves all the love and joy of a lifetime. 
2.  We love that everyone is interested in the well being of our little ones and want to share all the news. It can get overwhelming, though, as friends and family call for updates. Not everyone is on email or facebook. Help devise a way to disseminate information. Offer to be the main point of contact for people wanting news or generate a phone/email tree. 
3.  We are TERRIFIED of germs. If you have a sniffle or cough, stay away. Not just from the hospital, stay away from the family as well. If we get sick, we can't visit our little ones. Wash your hands, get your flu shots, keep yourself healthy so you don't pass anything along to us. 
4.  If you're wondering what to do for a NICU parent, keep in mind that the baby probably came before we finished our to-do list. We may have cribs or swings to purchase or assemble, but we also might need our oil changed and brakes checked, our carpets cleaned, household repairs taken care of, etc. 
5.  We are exhausted and hungry and tired of fast food!  Home food delivery, a frozen casserole, or a meal "catered" by a nicer restaurant can feel like a miracle. 
6.  We don't really want to hear about your friend's cousin whose baby was born two weeks early and "turned out fine. You'd never know." every preemie is different and, believe me, we've researched our chances and know what the most likely outcomes are. We know you mean to be comforting, but it really doesn't help. 
7.  Please do not get offended or cause drama. This is not about you. It seems this should go without saying, but with emotions running high and visitation limited, often friends or family members wind up feeling hurt and rejected. When deciding who gets visitation rights, MANY factors come into play. We might consider who is likely to be able to visit the most, who might be babysitting the kids later on, who might be less exposed to germs, etc. It is not a measure of who our favorite is or who we love the most. It is an incredibly difficult decision that is only made harder if we fear we will hurt someone's feelings. Please remember that visitors are limited not just to protect the baby you know, but to protect all the babies in the NICU. Meanwhile, we are scared and exhausted and stressed and just do not have the energy or time to worry about anyone except us and our babies.
8. Preemie parents are worried about their house and air quality being clean enough to take our babies home. When going hone time approaches, offer to "spring clean" and dust or hire a maid service, or change our air filters, clean the carpets, and/or groom our pets. 
9. Offer to keep our pets for a week or so when the babies first get home. 
10. Every preemie parent is different. Some want to be surrounded by their loved ones, while others hold tight as a family unit, shunning all others. Cards, emails, grocery delivery, etc. are all ways to let the parents know you are there for them while giving them enough space to decide whether to reach out to you. 

Thank you. 

Friday, November 12, 2010

So Wear Pants Then?

I've seen it suggested that a SAHM should begin each day by getting herself and her children completely dressed. Everyone should be dressed as though they're going somewhere, even down to the shoes. I thought this was a good idea until I became a SAHM. Now I find the idea to be utterly ludicrous.

Two of the most important things in my life are ease and comfort. This is why the main distinction between my pajamas and my daytime attire is the addition of a bra. But this is not about me. ( I do, in fact wear pants every day, even if they are yoga or sweatpants or gym shorts.). It is about my little men. 

I will admit something to the Blogosphere that I do not admit to my own family. Most days my boys wear just diapers and nothing else. If we think someone might be stopping by, we put either t-shirts or full outfits on the guys. The decision of t-shirt or outfit naturally depends on who is coming over. I obviously realize my guys are old to be frolicking in baby skivvies all day, but it's so EASY. They can drink and pee and drool without winding up in soaked clothes. There is no need for bibs at mealtime. A damp cloth takes care of meal mess. Most importantly, it allows for much faster diaper changes. This becomes more important every day a the boys have developed an aversion to holding still that borders on panic. 

Alas, all of this now must change. 

Yesterday the guys were playing in the kitchen while I prepared their lunch. I hit the restroom, and when I came out I wondered what was on K's face. That's when I saw H. He was sitting on the floor, diaper expertly removed and slightly hooked around one ankle, cheerfully smearing poop everywhere. 

In one motion I grabbed a clorox wipe, wiped down the floor so K wouldn't get into it, and scooped up H. I carted him off to the nursery where I intended to clean his hands with wipes. As the wipedown began, I realized it wasn't just on his hands. It was EVERYWHERE. When I saw there was poop in his ear, I scrapped the wipedown in favor of a full bath. 

It was about this time that I remembered there was "something" on K's face. I investigated and, yep, it was poop. I hauled both kids into the tub where they happily splashed, oblivious to the horror they had just endured. 

Now the guys must wear pants even at Home to prevent diaper removal. I feel it looks white-trashy to have them just in pants so they wear shirts, too. Please don't ask why I had no problem with them in just diapers but can't have them in pants with no shirt. I can't explain it. 

This is why my guys are now fully dressed at home. 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Frustrated. Found dog but can't help.

So what  am I supposed to do?  A dog showed up at my house. He's wearing a collar but no ID. He's super friendly, wet, cold, and LIMPING. 

In my previous life I would not hesitate to try to leash him then take him around the neighborhood finding his home. Now, however, I've got to think about my guys. Even if I did want to bundle them up and roll them around the 'hood, I don't want them around a strange dog. 

I thought about trapping him in the garage while contacting neighbors by phone and email.  I decided this is not a good plan.  I think he might have a better shot of finding his way back home than I do of finding it for him so I don't want to trap him in. 

Right now my garage door is open so he can hang out in there. I think I might have to close it, though. We keep a lot of stuff in the garage and I'm not comfortable leaving it open. 

I guess I just have to let him go his own way. Crap. What would you do?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Looking Back: First Halloween vs "First" Halloween

My guys are almost fourteen months old, so technically this isn't their first Halloween. Last year, however, they were in the hospital and we had seceded from planet earth.  We therefore consider this year to be their "first" holiday season.

Last year, early in my pregnancy I had begun researching great costumes for women with big pregnant bellies. I had considered painting my belly like a fish bowl, or going as a pregnant nun. I was putting a lot of thought into this, knowing it would most likely be the only Halloween I would ever spend pregnant, and wanting to capitalize on what I knew would be a ginormous tummy.  I LOVE Halloween and was looking forward to decorating our new home and handing out candy to the neighborhood kids.

Obviously, none of this came to pass. By the time October arrived, my sons were born and struggling their way through the NICU experience.  My belly was no longer wonderfully round.  Instead it was the odd flabby post-pregnancy bump that manages to look just enough like actual pregnancy to be entirely depressing.  I would not be wearing an adorable preggo costume.  Not only that, we would not be handing out candy.  Like most preemie parents, we were terrified of germs in a way that only TV's Monk could understand.  The thought of little germ-was coming to the door with their grubby hands expecting candy - no matter how adorably dressed- was terrifying and revolting to us.  I know it might seem petty, but I was terribly sad to not be celebrating the holiday.

You see, this wasn't just a matter of Halloween. Halloween marked the beginning of our holiday season in seclusion. We could not celebrate the holodays as a new family. We were not living under the same roof.  We were exhausted from living half at the hospital. We were terrified of germs, making us hesitant to see family and friends to celebrate. Barely having energy to put together dinner on any kind of regular basis, a holiday meal was out of the question.  While I did not begrudge anyone else their holiday joy, and in fact still love the holidays, I could not stomach being surrounded by all that cheer.  We certainly didn't have the time or strength to deal with the inevitable family drama.  We made a conscious decision to not observe any holidays that year. Halloween was the first of our unmarked 2009 holiday season.  We truly were in our own world, separate from everyone else we knew.

Because we were not handing out candy, I did not want to decorate. I feel strongly that decorating for Halloween is like advertising you will have candy. I didn't want to be making a false promise to the neighborhood kids.  In the week leading up to the holiday, hospital volunteers made Halloween themed baby blankets, of which each of our boys got one. The guys were still in isolettes, however, so the blankets just draped over the top. Cheery pumpkin faces grinned at me from the top of my preterm babies' incubators.  It was a lovely gesture, but really made me feel more isolated from the season.  We spent Halloween day at the hospital. At the last minute, we decided to offer candy. We still did not want to be in direct contact with children so we set bowls of candy on the porch. We turned off all our lights and hid out in our bedroom. Later, when the bowls were empty and sanitized, we wondered if one kid took all the candy, or if the honor system worked and chocolates and starburst were available to all.

This year was a complete turnaround!  We decorated the house! We hung fake spiderwebs and had a spooky picture that screamed when you pushed a button. I did not dress up to hand out candy, but we did hand it out and I got to see so many adorable costumes! 

I dressed my guys up as characters from Shaun of the Dead. Now, this is goofy --we didn't take them anywhere or even bring them to the door. We literally just dressed them up to take pictures, then let them put their T-shirts back on. We watched H walk around the living room and listened to K babble away. Sometimes the guys would follow me to the door. It was the beat best Halloween ever.

Again, this sets the tone for the rest of the holiday season. We're planning to have thanksgiving at my folks' house, with Hubby's folks and brother invited. We will hang lights this Christmas, and will celebrate in our own home with whatever family wants to join us. It feels so good to be part of the world again!