Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Wonder of Three

I was warned about three.  A lot of people say it's worse than two.  And certainly, Nora has had some truly frustrating moments in the past few months.  At least once a day she tells me "I'm mad at you!", or "Don't talk to me!"  She has mastered the skill of procrastination when there's a task I ask her to do that she doesn't want to do, and she will throw impressive fits if things are not going her way.

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BUT, it is also a fun, amazing age.  She has developed her imagination, and the things she comes up with are adorable and funny.  It is also the age of independence.  She loves being able to do things herself.  If she tries and can't do it as well as she was hoping, she will literally scream in frustration.  Lately she's been really into getting dressed totally by herself.  For a few mornings in a row I've come into her room and she's gotten out of her pajamas and picked out a whole outfit and gotten dressed herself.  I've also come in to find her wearing not one, but two sets of pajamas, one on top of the other.  "Look Mommy", she says, "I put BOTH of my pajamas on!".

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She is really into bugs right now.  She's partly afraid of bugs but mostly just intensely curious.  She can talk you ear off about ants and spiders and bees and which bugs are friendly and which ones are not.  Which ones might bite and why. She loves to look for roly-polys on our walks.  When she finds one she picks it up and says, "Look, he likes me!" (She's become quite adept at her scooter, too.  But of course the princess dress is a must, even on the scooter).  She'll stop along the way and hug each tree. "I love this tree SO much", she'll say.

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She has so much excitement for every activity, it's infectious.  We did sparklers and little fireworks this year on the Fourth of July, and she was grinning from ear to ear, wiggling and squealing "I'm so excited!!"  We've done a lot of fun activities this summer- the Children's Museum (where she got to make a big bubble room with daddy), family parties, swim classes, the splash park, evening walks and visits to the town center fountains.  All of these things are so fun because of a little girl with a huge smile on her face.

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Her imagination really has taken off, and she'll spend many hours of the day inventing stories, or re-enacting various movies.  Lately she's been very into Cinderella, and one afternoon her and I literally re-enacted the entire movie, with her as Cinderella (of course), and me as every other character (evil stepmother and step-sisters, fairy godmother, and prince).  She knows most of the lines from the movie, and would act out having the clean the floor, getting her dress ripped from the evil step-sisters, having the fairy godmother come, and finally, dancing with the prince, losing the magical slipper, and having it fit her foot just perfectly.

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Watching her at bathtime is similar, but she'll have long re-enacted stories about her toy mermaids, sometimes stuff she makes up, sometimes things from The Little Mermaid.  It's fascinating to watch.  She also loves to pretend she is a cat.  That can actually be somewhat aggravating, as she will only talk in "cat", i.e., meows, while she's in character.  When Kevin is home, she loves nothing more than to either play "monster" (one of us is the monster and chases the other two), or "horsie" (Kevin is the horse.  Sometimes she rides his back but more often she just likes to lead him around and tell him where to sleep, LOL).

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She is generally a good big sister and loves to "share" her toys with Jack- usually lying them on top of him.  I'm sure she won't be quite as generous when he actually starts to show interest in her things. :)  She likes to help out with him, and she tells me how she was a little baby once too but now she's a big girl.  It feels like a blink of an eye to me but to her, it was an eon ago.

At night we still say what we're thankful for.  Nora's list is usually something like, "Boats and rocketships, Ariel, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, a roof so that the rain and snow and hail doesn't come in, shoes and pajamas, Mommy and Daddy and baby Jack... and um... stars!"

There are tough moments with her every day, but she is the joy of my life. She sometimes makes me want to pull my hair out, but when she gives me a kiss on the lips and says, "I'm your friend and you are my friend, right Mommy?" or "I love you SO much", I can't think of anything sweeter in the world.

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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Why Maternity Leave is Hard & Wonderful at the same time

I haven't been posting a ton on here, but we are alive and well!  Lol.  I've now been on maternity leave for 4 weeks, plus the 2 weeks before that when Jack was in the hospital.  It's been a busy busy 6 weeks.  It helps that this time I was more prepared for the mind-numbing busy-ness that comes with newborns- it was a really hard adjustment with Nora, but this time I'm finding it easier to find enjoyable moments amongst the chaos.

You wouldn't think it would be so busy, but with pumping (or breastfeeding last time), bottle-feeding and cleaning, rocking and playing, pacifying the toddler, etc I end up with very little free time during the day and very little sleep at night.  And this is even with Nora at daycare most days, which helps a ton (she's been going to full-day daycare twice per week, part-time preschool "camp" two days per week, and staying home one day per week).  Plus my mom and sometimes sister have been able to help out a lot too, picking Nora up from school and taking her out to do some activities (Kevin also helped a ton for the first few weeks but now he's back to another crazy rotation and I don't see him much).  For all their help, I'm truly grateful.  Plus many others have brought us food or helped entertain Nora, or sent us thoughtful notes (thank you!!!).

It's been exhausting, as most nights I got 4-5 hours of sleep- but not continuous.  Usually I get like a couple 1.5 hours stretches and another 1 hour stretch.  A couple of night ago I think I got 6 hours total and it felt amazing- one 2.5 hour stretch, a 2 hour stretch, and a 1 hour stretch.  Jack is actually a decent night sleeper (heck, he's a decent day sleeper, kid sleeps all.the.time), but we only just got approval from the pediatrician to let him sleep as long as 5 hours; for a long time it was every 3 hours around the clock we had to wake him to eat.  Usually he sleeps closer to 4 at a time at night before he gets hungry.  But in addition I was pumping every 3 hours around the clock, and the combination of pumping and feeding took me about 1.5 hours... every 3 hours.  So that leaves not a lot of time for sleep.  When Kevin was on vacation for a week, he helped with some of the night feedings, but I still had to wake to pump.  Ugh.

The good news, things are looking up.  Jack is getting bigger and can sleep longer, and I've nearly weaned from the pump entirely (the final nail in the breastfeeding/pumping coffin?  Jack was diagnosed with a milk protein allergy over the last weekend- associated with bloody mucousy poop.  Yay.  Even if breastfeeding had been going great I'm not sure I have the willpower to totally give up all dairy/soy products.  He's now on hypoallergenic formula and seems much happier.  I'm sad that his early arrival led to this path of not breastfeeding.  From talking to other NICU moms, it seems like this is pretty common.  But I've come to accept it, and acknowledge that there are certainly good things about having to use formula- it's just easier in some cases).

Anyway, those are the downsides, but honestly Jack is a sweet little baby and I'm loving being at home this summer.  I know I won't get maternity leave again, and having this summer to dote on my babies is really special.  Really the time is flying by, as it always does- in a couple of weeks, I'll already be halfway through maternity leave. :(  I think I'll be ready to go back to work but there are definitely things I will miss about being home with these kiddos.

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Thursday, July 3, 2014

Pregnancy Evolution #2

Here is how my bump evolved with Nora.

And here it is with Jack... didn't get to find out what it looked like at 39 weeks, but in some ways I'm glad the bump was so big even at 34 weeks... still got to experience feeling like a nice round pregnant lady. :)

I think it's especially interesting to compare when I'm wearing the same shirt, like weeks 22 and 31, or weeks 27 and 34, or weeks 18 and 29.   So cool!  I'm glad I documented it almost every week... it's fun to see the changes.

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Monday, June 30, 2014

Two Yawns

I just realized I have pictures of both of my babies at one month old, yawning in the same chair.  There are definitely some similarities! (and some differences, like the nose is different I think).  Too funny. :)

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Friday, June 27, 2014

Siblings

I was worried about how Nora would handle having a baby in the house, but so far, she's doing really well!  She really likes to hold his hand, and she asks to hold him or kiss him, which is really cute.  I think the hardest part for her right now might be all the time pumping takes me- she has a hard time not climbing all over me, or asking me to do things I can't while attached to the pump.  So we've been watching a lot more movies than normal, which distracts her long enough so I can bottle feed Jack and then pump (if Kevin is home then he will play with her). I think things will get harder when Jack can play with her toys and she'll have to share.  It will also be harder when Kevin is on his difficult rotations, as I can't provide her as much attention when it's just me.

I thought this series of photos was so cute... this was one of the first times Nora really got to hold Jack.  You can see she looks a little worried at first.  Then I told her to kiss him; she can be really gentle and sweet with him!  And I love the last picture... my two little loves.

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Monday, June 23, 2014

Jack: One Month

Dear Jack,

Here it is, one month since you arrived on this earth, and we're not even at your due date yet. :)  I think I'm still coming to terms with the fact that you are here.  It's been surreal to say the least.  I'm mostly so happy that you're doing well, because on the day of your birth, that was my greatest fear.  But after your stint in the NICU, we're so happy that you're home with us finally.  You've been doing so well, growing and learning to do all the things you were supposed to learn in utero.  We're so glad you're here, and safe, and part of our family.

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Sleeping: I think because you are a preemie you are still on the "womb" schedule, meaning you sleep 90% of the time- maybe 22 hours a day?  Mostly you wake up to eat, then you maybe have 10 minutes of awake time, and then you pass out again.  We have to wake you up every 3 hours to eat to make sure you are gaining weight, but at your most recent appointment, the doctor said you could have one 4 hour stretch at night, which I've been happy about. :)  I have noticed your awake time is getting slightly longer.  I'm guessing next month you'll start to be more alert.  All your sleep does make you a super easy baby right now.

However, I'm getting very little sleep.  I'm supposed to pump milk every 3 hours, and you eat every 2.5-3 hours, and both those things take considerable time right now.  It takes me 30-45 minutes to get the pump all set up, pump, manually express milk, and clean up.  You are a pretty slow eater right now (you fall asleep a lot during feeding), so it usually takes 30 minutes to finish a bottle.  So altogether it's like 1-1.5 hours every 3 hours of stuff to do. So at night that means I get sleep in 1-1.5 hour increments.  I think I average 4-5 hours per night, and it's broken into pieces.  Ugh!  I think this is pretty common for anyone with a newborn, and I remember how much I hated it the first time- sleep deprivation is awful.  The only thing that makes it better this time is that I'm less surprised by it, and I know it will end eventually.  Kevin's been able to help more this time too, by giving you a bottle at some of the feeds, though I still have to pump.

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Eating: You eat about every 2.5 hours during the day, and then I usually have to wake you up at night to eat, every 3 hours.  A few nights this last week, you were getting hungry every 2 hours at night, so I think you were doing a little cluster feeding.  You have quite the regimen for getting milk.  We have to fortify my breastmilk with extra calories, so I mix up batches of breastmilk with fortifier.  Then you have to get a multi-vitamin with iron once per day (nasty stuff).  Right now you usually eat about 2 oz of milk per feeding.  Sometimes you still seem hungry afterwards so then I'll get you a little more.  With the fortifier I have to be careful about preparing too much because once you drink from it, you have to finish what's in the bottle within an hour or I have to throw it out (precious breastmilk!). 

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As I said above, I've been pumping breastmilk around the clock since you were born, but literally every day I think about quitting at least 5 times.  I want you to have breastmilk to provide immunities and protection, especially given your preemie status, but after struggling with Nora with supply and going to formula, I no longer think it should be the priority above everything else (like my own health and sanity).  I've been making very short-term goals, like 2 weeks, 3 weeks, now 4 weeks, a month.  My next goal is your due date next week.  But for various reasons, I think after that I will start to aim towards switching to formula.  It's taken a lot of inner debate and consideration; I feel sad because I think the outcome would have been different if you had been born full-term.  I'm sorry we're not going to have that particular bonding experience.  But I am also feeling at peace (even a little relieved) at not pursuing breastfeeding.  This is because:

a) My supply.  It has actually improved slightly, but it's still at the very low end of normal, and I feel like if we went to exclusive breastfeeding I would be constantly worried about whether you were getting enough, especially as you get bigger.

b) Your latch.  It's happened- you've gotten worse at nursing since going nearly full-time on bottles.  The last few times we've tried nursing you pinch the nipple (ouch!), and even with a nipple shield you've started having trouble latching.  Plus you do not have a strong suck.

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c) I hate pumping.  Some people are able to exclusively pump for months and months.  Maybe if I were a first time parent without a toddler at home, I'd be willing to put in the effort and time.  But the time in front of the pump takes me away from time with both you and Nora.  It's hard to go out and do anything because I either have to drag the pump with me or be home within a short amount of time.  I also found out I have this thing called Dysphoric milk ejection reflex (D-MER)- where at letdown, I get this overwhelming feeling of anxiety and doom.  It's weird because I don't remember having this with Nora; maybe it's because I am pumping instead of breastfeeding.  Apparently 10% of women have this?  It's associated with the hormones that allow your body to produce milk.  I'm glad I noticed that it's associated with the pump or I would have worried about my mental health.

d) Since you've been home, you've developed reflux.  Apparently this is very common in preemies, who have even more under-developed gastro-intestinal systems than normal babies.  So you've been screeching and arching your back during feedings, and spitting up a lot.  Sometimes the milk comes out of your nose, which is not good with your oxygen canula- then you inhale the milk into your lungs!  It makes me feel so bad!  So I talked to the doctor.  She said if I weren't going to continue with breastfeeding, she would recommend trying a formula made to help with spitting up and reflux.  We've been trying Enfamil AR twice per day and it's definitely an improvement! (an expensive improvement....).  The downside is that I think it causes a bit of constipation.  So we'll have to figure out the perfect balance.

Right now I'll keep pumping but might move to every 4 hours rather than every 3.  The doctor wants to make sure you're still gaining weight, since the formula has less calories than the fortified breastmilk.  So you'll still get breastmilk for a few weeks yet.  I also have a small freezer stash going.  Anyway, that's my current plan (long story, I know!).

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Weight:  You were born at 4lbs 10oz.  At your first pediatrician appointment at 3 weeks old, you weighed 5 lbs 10oz.  Then at 4 weeks old, you weighed 6 lbs 7oz.  Almost up 2 lbs from birth!  But not yet on the growth chart for a 1-month old.  I'm sure you'll be there soon!

Diaper Size:  Preemie, for most of the month, but just now fitting pretty good in newborn size.

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Clothes size:  Newborn, but some of the newborn stuff seems pretty big on you.  I didn't want to buy preemie size though since I knew how fast you'd grow out of them!  You have lots of cute newborn stuff though and now we'll have a little more time to enjoy them. :)

Eye Color: A beautiful dark blue; not sure if they will stay that color or not.

Oxygen:  You are on low-flow (.03%) O2.  The doctors said this is common for NICU babies in Colorado because of the altitude.  They also told me it can take awhile before babies get off the oxygen, which is a real bummer!  We have to carry the O2 tank with us wherever we go... it can be a real pain.  I'm hoping within the next month you will pass the oxygen test and we can ditch that thing!

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Milestones/Firsts: Well pretty much everything is a first this month. :)  But some of the big things were your first bath (not a fan, though I've since found that if I put enough water in to fill part of the sling, you like it better, because you are not so cold then); first stroller and car ride; and first tummy time (we honestly have only tried this once; it's difficult with the oxygen and the spit-up issues; hopefully more in the next month).

Likes/Dislikes:  This month you mostly just liked sleeping. :)  I know it's because you're so little but I'm secretly hoping you will continue to be a great sleeper.  I can dream, right?  You like eating and attack the bottle voraciously but you hate burping and the spit-up after- I think it burns your little throat. :(  You are just so-so on the bouncy seat; you seem to like the swing (but not always actively swinging); and you sleep great in the Rock n'Play so far, where you are currently sleeping, right next to the bed in our room.

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People Lovin' On You:  In the NICU, both sets of grandparents, your aunts, and your big sister all came to visit; in some cases multiple times.  Your Grandma and Grandpa just happened to be in town when you were born, and ended up staying an extra week just to help out and see you.  Many people have sent their love, or stopped by with food or gifts, or helped entertain Nora. You are so loved already, Jack.  And your sister!  She constantly wants to hold your hand, or give you your pacifier, or give you a kiss on your head.

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So far, I've found that becoming a parent to a second child does not seem as big of a change to our lives as becoming a parent the first-time.  We're more used to babies and what they entail, and the sleep deprivation, while still awful, is not unexpected. We also have the perspective that the hard moments with babies feel like they drag on, but really this time is fleeting.  In some ways that's the hardest part for me; I look at you and think, "This is the last time I will have a baby so little." Everything that's a first for you, is a last for me.

We love you so much, little one.  It's been a hard rollercoaster of a month, but you are such a sweet baby and we are so happy you are doing so well given your early arrival.  You make our family complete!

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Friday, June 13, 2014

He's home!

Jack's home from the hospital, as of last Tuesday!

It's been quite the whirlwind week.  Last week the doctors were still saying Jack could be in the NICU up to his due date (still 2 weeks away).  But then he started being able to take every feeding by bottle without much trouble.  Sunday they called us and said we should try to make the Discharge Class that day, which we did (it was pretty lame.  Like carseat safety and how to bathe a baby.  They really shouldn't make second time parents take it).  Then Monday, they said they would discharge him the next day!  It all happened so fast.

Tuesday was a big day for Jack, as he had to pass a number of test to make sure he could leave the NICU, like a carseat challenge (which makes sure he can sit in the carseat for up to 40 minutes without having a breathing/heart episode).  He also got his circumcision and his Hep B shot (not happy about either of those).  Around 4 pm, we were finally ready to go.

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Our 19 day NICU graduate.  Leaving the hospital at 5 lbs 8oz... still a little peanut but almost a pound over his birth weight:

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You'll notice in these photos that we did bring him home on oxygen... it's such a pain. There are like giant oxygen tanks in our house and if we go anywhere we have to drag a tank with us. He might be on it anywhere from 2-8 weeks... so annoying. But it's okay if it means he's home!

More about how we're adjusting later...