I would like to extend a warm welcome to this blog. Please know that I offer advice, support, and experience based on my role as the parent of a micropreemie. This should in no way be construed as a substitution for the recommendations of your medical provider. Please make sure to check in with your child's doctor before implementing any changes. Thanks so much for being here!
Have a question or issue you would like to see addressed? Please feel free to email me at: parentingmiracles (at) gmail (dot) com
When babies arrive way too early, the focus is, of course, on the baby. As well it should be. But, after the new arrival, most of the concern seems to fall on the mommies. There are a lot of good reasons for this, most notably the fact that Mommy has gone through birth, often under traumatic circumstances. Add to that the fact that the mother's health may have been in very real jeopardy and it makes even more sense. Still, I want you to remember that...
Having a preemie is hard on Dad too. Here are three very specific reasons why:
Rare is the dad who gets abundant paternity leave. Oftentimes (as with my hubby), these fathers need to go back to work within days of their preemie's unexpected early arrival. It is heart-wrenching for them to have to leave their babies (and wives, in some cases) still hospitalized but, especially if they are the primary bread-winners, there often isn't a choice.
Not only are preemie dads dealing with the same responsibilities at work as before the birth, they are often shouldering MORE responsibilities on the homefront. If Mom had a c-section or health struggles, she is often not in good enough shape to take care of her "usual" tasks, from childcare to housekeeping. Who ends up bearing that burden? Often- Dad.
Dads are expected to be tough. While society accepts and comforts mothers who dissolve into teary, blubbering messes, the same cannot be said for fathers. No matter how "equal" we try to make the genders, they are not. And society's expectations of dads are very different from those of moms. While their emotions are riding the same wild roller coaster on the inside, Dads often feel the need to remain stoic, to always be the "strong one". This is an incredible responsibility and can definitely take its toll.
So, the next time you're talking to the father of a preemie, think about how hard it is for him too. Acknowledge that. Just saying, "This must be really hard on you... let me know if I can help" can go a long way.
It is so easy to get caught up in it... so easy to think, "my house isn't as clean as hers...", "my food isn't as 'real' as hers is...", "my kids don't do cute crafts like hers do", "my house isn't all decorated for the season like hers is...", "I don't rub my hubby's feet every night like she does..."
I do it.
Overall, I think I do a pretty good job in my role as wife and mother. Quite honestly, I know I certainly give off that impression. I know there are mommies around me who are saying, "my kids doesn't eat as well as hers do...", "I don't bake from scratch like she does....", etc, etc.
Do they know how much I hate to mop my floors? That dust bunnies linger under my couches? That (too often) I'm tired and short-tempered when my beloved husband gets home from work? That I love Diet Coke and I have no interest in eliminating white flour, rice, or sugar from our diets? Do you know those things about me?
And it gets worse. Not only is there a competition for "wife and mother of the year", there is also a competition for "who has it roughest".
This can be true among preemie moms:
"Oh yeah? Your baby's horribly near-sighted? Mine's blind."
"Oh yeah? Your baby was born at 26 weeks? Mine was born at 24. And I had twins."
"Oh yeah? Your baby had a grade 3 brain bleed? Mine had a grade 4..."
It's insane. But it's very real.
And it's not just preemie moms...
"Oh, your husband's away on business? Mine was just deployed and will be gone for months..."
"Oh, your mother-in-law was in a car accident? I lost both my parents to cancer."
"Your husband lost his job and money is tight? Mine has been unemployed for six months and we lost our house..."
I try not get caught up in these things. Not to compete.
From now on, I WILL compete. Each and every day.
My questions for myself will change...
Instead of, "Is my house as clean as hers?", I will ask, "Is my house cleaner than it was yesterday?"
Instead of, "Is our diet as healthy as theirs?", I will ask, "Are we eating better than we did last year?"
Instead of, "Am I serving my husband as well as she is?", I will ask, "Am I pleasing MY husband? Am I doing my best for HIM?"
I am going to embrace competitive motherhood and wifehood.
But my only competition? The ME of yesterday. I am the only measuring stick that matters.
I was getting used to having to tell the story of how C. got hurt. It never got easier, but it almost became routine. I think the biggest saving grace for me through all of that was the fact that I had SO many people who actually knew me and not one of them doubted that it was just a horrible accident. If my husband or my family or my in-laws had ever suspected that I would intentionally harm my child, that probably would have just done me in. But they did not.
A different doctor came back in the room a couple of hours later. I still wasn't really sure why we were still stuck there but, because I was the one under investigation, I didn't feel it was my place to question. This new doctor told us:
"If we are to accept the story you've given us, Mrs. S, and, at this time, we haven't found evidence to the contrary, then we have to find out why your daughter was injured falling such a short distance. We need to conduct further testing. We will be doing a full-body scan to look for any signs of previous breaks or injuries that were perhaps not reported. We also want to run some bone density tests to see if C. has brittle bone disease- that would help explain why her leg would break more easily."
And, without another word, she left.
We were shocked.
I fully understood that they wanted to this whole body x-ray scan because they still weren't convinced that I hadn't hurt this baby before. They were still looking for evidence that she was the victim of abuse and this was a good way of checking for past injuries. I didn't like the idea of all that radiation exposure, but I was also pretty confident that nothing was going to turn up. I, of course, knew I had never hurt our baby girl, and I was quite sure I would have known if she had somehow gotten hurt previously.
Brittle bone disease???
We were silent for a long time. Then my husband spoke,
"Wouldn't they have noticed something earlier? During all those months in the NICU? At all those check-ups with Developmental Pediatrics?"
"I don't know..." I said quietly.
"That would change her whole life... I can't imagine." He hung his head.
We had several more hours of trying to entertain our son and rocking our awkward, casted baby daughter. And worrying.
Yet another doctor walked in. He was there to explain the risks of the procedures and to tell us that C. would be sedated and intubated for the tests... and also that the tests would be on different days, meaning she would be put to sleep and put on a ventilator TWICE.
I burst into tears.
You may think that it would be easier for parents of a preemie who had spent weeks or months on the ventilator to hear that she would need to be intubated... after all, we'd been through all this before.
It is not.
Preemie parents spend SO long waiting for our babies to breathe on their own. Once they are finally weaned from the vent, it is cause for celebration. And also fear... we worry, unendingly at first, that any day could be the day she has to be re-intubated. No one wants to have to go back there. We were so afraid that she wouldn't "remember" how to breathe on her own...
The full-body scan was to be that evening. Long after radiology was closed for the night, our little girl was wheeled down there. Our son explored the toys of the waiting room while I flipped listlessly through a Highlights magazine from 1994...
When it was over, my husband headed out to stay with our son. I hunkered down to stay with our baby girl.
It was a long, sleepless night.
One of the doctors came back in the morning, her face set in a stern line.
"Mr. and Mrs. S... it looks like the humerus was chipped awhile back and has since healed. Are you able to tell us what caused that?"
We were all sick the last week or so... colds worked their way through the whole family. The kids got it first and, surprisingly, I caught it too. Doesn't happen very often that I catch a cold! Anyhow, now that we're all on the mend, simple, classic tastes sound best to me. And this week's menu reflects that perfectly...
Maybe your school offers really great deals on portrait packages. Maybe they take multiple shots to ensure a great pic. Maybe you feel confident that your child's hair is still going to look great by the time they get to her. If those things hold true for you... awesome. But they do not for me.
Around here, a small package of prints (1 8x10, 1 5x7, 2 3x5, 4 wallets, and 8 of those useless teeny little "wallets") runs you $34.00. Per child. Ouch. You don't get to choose a pose- they just send them home and you either take it or try again at retake day. One more shot. If you're lucky, your child's picture is taken early in the day before gym and lunch and recess can wreak havoc on her 'do but, well, you never know.
This year, I put my foot down. I sent polite notes in with my two children indicating that we were opting not to purchase school pictures this time around.
Some people would just take pictures of their kids at home and call it good. And I think that's great. But I am not one of those people. I LIKE professional photos. I LIKE sending them out to the out of town relatives. And, well, I STINK at ever printing out the photos that I take so doing my own just never works out for me.
For $7.99, we received a package including 2 8x10, 2 5x7, 4 3x5, and 16 wallets. We did that three times (we have three kids, you know) and still came in under the cost of ONE (smaller) school package. And we were able to choose from multiple poses. And we could straighten hair and clothing as necessary. Our photographer was fantastic and he took the time to make our children genuinely smile...
A few tips if you decide to go the same route:
Be sure to be clear with the school that you are choosing to not order portraits. You don't want them to think that your child simply forgot their form.
Print or collect any coupons you will need for the photo place you've chosen to use.
Be prepared-- there will be multiple cute shots of your child. It is the photographer's JOB to try to sell you bigger packages and multiple extras. It is YOUR job to commit to one pose and stick with your inexpensive package deal.
I choose to be upfront with the photographer. Quite frankly, I don't want him spending oodles of time creating darling collages that I know I won't be buying anyway. I let them know I am looking for one good shot.
Be polite. Just a good rule of thumb- always.
Don't feel guilty. The store offers these deals because they figure they'll be able to convince people to buy more. Often they can. They do realize that some people will just take the $7.99 package and roll. That is a choice they have made.
So there you go! That's how we saved a bundle on photos this year... and walked away with higher quality shots.
**I am not affiliated with JCPenney in any way, shape, or form. I have not been compensated to say good things- or even asked to say anything, for that matter. I would gladly, however, be willing to... we were THAT pleased!
Last weekend, we went to visit my grandma in her new home. It was our first time seeing her new apartment and, since we decided to make the trek on a whim, she was surprised to see us there. Happy, but surprised.
After visiting with her for awhile, rearranging a table to better meet her solitaire-playing needs, and escorting her down to the activity room to play Bingo, we said our goodbyes.
As we headed out the front door, an elderly lady touched my arm and stopped us.
"What a beautiful family!" she exclaimed, smiling at the baby in my arms and the children clinging to Daddy's hands.
"Oh, I will..." I started to say, but she continued.
"Love them more every day. But, even more, love each other. Enjoy each other. Your children will see that. It will shape the relationships they choose."
"I'm not crazy," she laughed. "I hope I didn't scare you."
Quickly, I shook my head no and opened my mouth to speak, but she wasn't quite done...
"It's just... I saw you and it reminded me of me, long ago. I'm the only old bird left in my family now, but I remembered what it was like. I had four children too... Bless you." And she smiled softly as she headed back inside.
My son took my older daughter's hand and I took my husband's. We headed to the car.
Hubby and I have talked about that weekend a lot since. It was a long weekend- Columbus Day weekend- and we had three whole days together. All three were wonderful. We enjoyed each other. We laughed together. We teased each other.
And we weren't afraid to listen to a stranger... to glean some wisdom from our elder.
*Note: I only have three children. And I'm not expecting. I think she may have some vision problems. Just didn't want to start any rumors... ;)
One thing you might not know about me is that I'm very handy with the metric system. Not only do I have a pretty good "mental image" of just how big a centimeter, liter, or meter is, I am also pretty quick at converting into our more usual English system. Maybe this seems like a useless skill to you, but I can tell with absolute honesty that it was a wonderful ability to possess when my micropreemie daughter was in the NICU... all the measurements there- from weight to length to how much she was eating- were logged in the metric system. I was one of the few parents who didn't always have to scramble to the conversion charts on the wall. Want to feel a little more competent with the metric system? Here are a few things to learn:
First of all, over 95% of the world uses the metric system. We are the exception here, not the rule. Much like a second language, it's definitely not a bad thing to learn. Ignorance is NOT bliss, in my opinion...
The metric system is all a system of 10s... everything is based off this. To move to smaller or larger units of measure, you are always multiplying or dividing by 10, 100, or 1000. This is far simpler than our English method of 12 (inches in a foot), 3 (feet in a yard), 4 (quarts in a gallon), 5,280 -what in the world???- (feet in a mile), etc...
There are approximately 1.6 kilometers in a mile. Incidentally, we seem to like to use kilometers in this country, at least for our races. I guess "5k" sounds more impressive than "3.1 miles". ;)
There are 2.54 centimeters in an inch. If you can just remember that, you can convert most "non distance" measurement quite easily!
The next one easy for me to remember is this: There are 454 grams in a pound. (I think I remember those two "54s" together...) My micropreemie weighed 620 grams at birth. It was important to keep track of her weight in grams because it was a much more precise system for tracking weight loss and gain. In a full-term infant, ounces are sufficient. Not so for these teeny tiny ones.
A liter and a quart are very, very close in size. No, that is not precise. But it'll get you by in the real world. It is rare that it will make a huge difference to interchange those two units of measure. (If you're a real perfectionist, 1 liter = 1.05 quarts.)
Here's my favorite metric conversion to learn. I call it the "rule of 30". It goes like this. One ounce (whether liquid or weight measure) equals 30. Thirty what, you may wonder? Well that depends. One ounce (in weight) equals 30 grams. One ounce of liquid equals 30 grams, 30 mL (milliliters) , or 30 cc (cubic centimeters). When my tiny baby first started eating breast milk, she received 2 cc at each feeding. That's only 1/15th of an ounce. Or, if that's too hard to visualize...
There are 5 cc (or 5 mL) in a teaspoon. Thus, my little girl was getting just under a half teaspoon at each feeding. (Believe it or not, I always ask the doctor or pharmacist for my children's prescriptions in cc's instead of teaspoons... I find it easier to be accurate!)
A speed limit of 55 mph is roughly equal to 85 kilometers per hour. If you can remember that one, you'll have a decent idea whether or not you're speeding when traveling in any of the 95% of the world that uses the metric system!
That's all I've got... what questions do you have about the metric system? Do you like it? Use it? Feel comfortable with it? Let me know!
"Mrs. S.? This is Riley Hospital. We're wheeling C. in to meet with the orthopedic surgeon and we're just wondering why you're not here."
WHAT??? Why wasn't I THERE??? I wasn't THERE because they told me they hadn't scheduled her yet. I wasn't there because, when I had called forty minutes earlier, they had told me to call in a couple more hours...
We scooped up A. and flew out the door, grateful we had had the foresight to check out of the hotel before breakfast.
It was a solid twenty-five minute drive to the hospital and, again, I was a sobbing mess. Not only was I the one responsible for this poor baby getting hurt, I was now the mother who wasn't even there for her at the hospital.
By the time we flew through the doors to the orhtopedic surgery wing, our baby girl was already covered, ankle to chest, in a hot pink cast. The pictures I have from that time are forever trapped on an old broken laptop... but here's an idea what it was like:
Hers was like the one on the right, including that lovely bar that held her legs apart. At this point, you're likely wondering how on earth diapering worked. I don't blame you. We wondered the same thing. So I'll go ahead and answer that question right now.
We used a diaper one size smaller than usual. For our almost-1 year old that meant using a, believe it or not, newborn sized diaper. Our little baby was still in a size 1. So, we would take that newborn-sized diaper, rip the tabs off the sides, and kind of jam it into that opening you see there. We then had a diaper harness, which was really just a system of elastic straps with velcro, that we fastened around the diaper area and cast to help secure the diaper. It was, by no means, perfect, but it worked reasonably well.
Now that we've covered that, back to the story at hand...
I was torn, emotionally. On the one hand, I was so blessedly relieved that our little daughter had not had to have any surgery before having her leg set- a situation that had been a very real possibility, according to the emergency room doctor. On the other hand, I was devastated that our precious little girl had had to go through all this without her mama or her daddy by her side. It broke my heart that... we weren't there. How many times was I going to have to beat myself up for not being in the right place at the right time??? But there was nothing I could do.
The orthopedic surgeon was a very kind man. He was optimistic that C. might even be able to get out of her cast in a month. That seemed extraordinarily fast to us but, apparently, babies heal much faster than older children or adults. He smiled and said he thought a pretty little girl might enjoy the pink and that's why he had chosen it. If he could see our pink-loving C. today, he would know that he had most certainly been correct.
As far as he was concerned, we were done. He wanted us to come back in four weeks. As far as her broken femur went, C. had received the treatment that she needed.
But we were not released.
C. was taken back to her room and we went too. It was Wednesday now.
We took turns holding our baby girl in her awkward cast in the uncomfortable rocking chair in her room while we waited. Whoever wasn't rocking tried to entertain A. We called one of my husband's sisters and begged her to bring size 5 diapers and a change of pants for our son. And we waited.
It wasn't too long before someone else came to see me. She was the physician in charge of abuse investigations. I'm quite certain she had a more innocuous title than that but, for the life of me, I can't remember it. And, really, why sugar-coat it? She sat down in front of me with a clipboard and a black pen and said,
"Okay, Mrs. S. Take it from the top. Tell me how it came to pass that your infant daughter was brought to us with a spiral fracture of the right femur..."
D-Grilled Mandarin "Chicken on a Stick", Pasta Salad w/ extra veggies
Awhile back, I experimented with a Stuffed Meatball Sandwich. We loved them so, as a result, I'm trying a new rendition this week that I'll stuff with ham and swiss cheese. I'll let you know how it works out and, maybe one of these, I'll get around to posting how I make them!
Saturday night's supper is specially designed to eat outside if weather permits... we won't be able to do that for much longer, but the kids think it's so cool to eat on the platform of their playscape! When they're done? They- and their empty plates- slide down the slide. So fun!
Do you like to eat outside sometimes or is that "not your thing"?
My Grandma, surrounded by 7 great-grandchildren*, **
You know those families where generation after generation lives in the same town? Or the same county? Or, at the very least, the same state?
Yeah. I'm not from one of those families. Growing up, I had no grandparents, no aunts and uncles, no cousins in the same state as me. And, truth be told, it was absolutely fine. I didn't really feel "deprived", though I certainly looked forward to visiting our extended family. The extended family I got to visit least often? My grandparents out in Arizona. Growing up in upstate New York and Connecticut made that quite a trek, indeed.
A bit over a year ago, I moved back to the town where I spent most of my "growing up" years (the years from 10 to 18). My parents still live here. My sister and her family are just a couple towns over.
My eighty-eight year old grandma is here too. The grandma whose name is echoed in my younger daughter's. Just a few towns away. Easy to visit.
She can come to Sunday supper at my parents' house (assuming someone picks her up!)...
She can spend holidays surrounded by family...
Or she can just sit in a comfy chair in her apartment with a smattering of great grandchildren at her feet.
*Why, yes, my son IS wearing a pink shirt. The entire Little League did so for Breast Cancer Awareness! (And, for the record, I'm not one of those to freak out about pink on a guy anyhow...) **And, yes indeed, that is my son who looks like he was on the losing end of a fight. He fell running up our driveway and ended up needing "glue stitches" a mere week after his sister needed stitches in her face too... good times, good times.
When you go in for a well-child appointment, one of the most anticipated little bits of news is your child's current height and weight and where they fall "on the curve" or "on the chart". But, really, how much does this matter? Here are a few things to keep in mind while digesting that latest bit of information from your doctor...
What matters most is consistency. While we parents of tiny preemies spend a lot of time in the early days just trying to get our babies ON the chart, the vast majority of children naturally fall somewhere between the 3rd and 97th percentiles. Babies in the 95th percentile are not necessarily any healthier than those in the 5th, nor are they necessarily overweight or obese. What doctors do not want to see is a baby who has consistently been in the 70th percentile suddenly plummet to the 30th or a baby who has always been in the 50th percentile jump up to the 85th.
Height and weight do not need to fall in the same percentile. Babies are little humans and, as such, they have unique little bodies. There is a very wide range of normal- and healthy. My former micropreemie has, ever since she got ON the charts, fallen in the 3rd percentile for weight and just over the 25th for height. And that's fine. I have a niece who was, consistently, in the 85th percentile for height and 10th percentile for weight. That's just her normal. As long as she "stays the course", there's not likely much need for concern.
It is the doctor's job to question and analyze significant changes. Try not to be offended if your pediatrician asks you questions about your child's diet or activity level. Take it in stride if you're asked to come back in a month or two for a follow-up check. The doctor isn't insinuating you're a bad parent- he's trying to make sure there's not a bigger reason for concern (like a metabolic issue, hormonal imbalance, or disease). If there ARE changes that need to be made in your child's diet or activity level, just consider yourself lucky that it's such an easy fix!
I am raising children who are all over the map, size-wise. My son is in the 90th percentile for weight and, because of that, I think of him as "big". In reality, he's just tall. His height is way over the 97th percentile. Those charts can mess with your head sometimes! I'm guilty of being eager to hear the news each time I go in... but I'm lucky to have had enough smart doctors that I don't fixate on it.
How about you? Do you look forward to or dread those details? Or do you just not care? Have you ever had any worries about your child's growth?
Do you call them "cookie bars" or "pan cookies"? I come from a "cookie bar" family, but I've heard both. Many drop cookie recipes can be adapted to make cookie bars, but often a bit of tweaking is needed. I love cookie bars because, to me, the baking sheet after sheet of dough blobs is the time-consuming part!
Out of chocolate chips and low on peanut butter (have you noticed how often I run low on things and have to come up with something new???), I set out to create a Snickerdoodle Cookie Bar. Yum! Here it is:
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 package instant vanilla pudding
1 tablespoon milk
1 3/4 cups flour
cinnamon-sugar (for sprinkling generously over the top)
Preheat oven to 350. Cream butter and sugar. Add egg and vanilla, mixing on low. Add remaining ingredients (except for cinnamon-sugar) in order listed. You should be left with a stiff, golden dough. Spread dough in greased 8 or 9 inch square pan and sprinkle cinnamon-sugar mixture generously over the top. Bake for about 20 minutes, until lightly golden. I recommend letting them cool for a bit before cutting into squares!
(Oh me, oh my, how did I forget that Monday was a holiday this week?? And, something you should probably know about me- when my hubby's home, I sometimes forget all about what I'm 'supposed' to be doing, blog-wise. As a result, I made y'all wait even MORE than a week for the next installment... my apologies!! But, here we go. If you missed part 1 of this saga, you can find it here...)
I had been in touch back and forth with my husband throughout the day, filling him in on how C was doing. At this point, I had to call him (again) and give him the horrible news that our baby had a broken leg... and the doctor was advising us to take her to Riley, the children's hospital in Indianapolis where she had spent 3 1/2 months in the NICU.
He left work immediately to come and meet me at the doctor's office, but it would still be a good 45 minutes before he could get there. It was a pretty October day, so I took the kids outside in the double stroller and walked. And sobbed.
I called my mother. And sobbed.
I kept on walking. And sobbed.
When my husband arrived and helped us into the car, I sobbed, clinging to C's x-rays in my hand.
I sobbed. And C slept.
It took us about an hour and a half to get to Riley and, when we did, we hurried our little ones inside to get C into the ER. It was late evening by now.
They got us back into an exam room very quickly, but it took hours for them to actually come in and evaluate her. During this time, my husband and I took shifts walking our (by now) fussy one year old son up and down the hallways in his stroller while the other sat with C. She never cried during all this. Tough and stoic she always was as a baby... I think she got that was from enduring so much in her earliest days.
When the doctor did come in to examine C, she brought with her a resident who was just beginning her training and a social worker. I watched the doctor check out my tiny daughter and listened to her words to the resident...
"... spiral fractures are usually caused from someone grabbing and twisting the baby's limb... want to check the mouth for signs that a bottle has been shoved... often small lacerations... examine for scarring or past injuries... chronic abuse..."
It didn't much matter that there was no evidence of any of these things. I was devastated. The thought- the mere thought- was so sickening.
After that, the young, weary-looking, dark-haired social worked sat down across from me.
"Tell me what happened," she said.
Her face remained impartial, unmoving, through the whole tale.
"It's likely more people will want to talk to you about this," she finally said.
I nodded, "That's fine. Whatever you need."
Then the doctor spoke.
"Your daughter will be admitted and an orthopedic surgeon will be setting her leg in the morning. She'll need a hip spika cast- that's a cast that will go from her ankle up most of her body. You can call starting at 5 am to find out what time she's scheduled for. You can't stay with her and you need to get your son out because we're well past visitors' hours. The social worker can help you find a hotel."
She walked out.
It was after 11 o'clock. Our son was sipping milk from a carton a sweet nurse had brought to him. Our little girl was, again, sleeping.
Hearts broken, we headed out to find a place to stay for a few hours before we come could back to be with our baby. We hadn't had to leave her since her NICU days and it was a bitter feeling.
Eventually, we collapsed on the king-sized bed of a Comfort Inn with our son in between us and slept, fitfully, until my alarm woke me just before 5 am to call and see what time she would be meeting with the orthopedic surgeon...
I called from the bathroom so the light wouldn't wake my toddler.
The nurse who answered checked her chart...
"I'm sorry, Mrs. S... she's not on the schedule. Maybe try back in a couple hours?"
We woke up A and got him some breakfast in the lobby of the hotel.
As he munched on Froot Loops (oh, the horror!), my phone rang...
You've all heard of the Apgar, right? It's a tool used to get an early gauge as to how a baby is doing. They also test for a number of rare conditions through a blood sample. These are all just standard early screenings done to help monitor your baby's condition.
Early preemies have these too. But they also have a few more. Here are three of them:
Blood Gases- Ask any preemie parent and they'll be all too familiar with these. Breathing is one of the first major challenges for these tiny babies. In almost all cases, micropreemies spend many of their early days on ventilators. In order to make sure they are being given the right levels, blood is drawn (usually from the heel) at set intervals (ranging from hourly to every 6 hours, typically) and the "gas levels" are checked. From these results, the doctors and nurses can decide if the ventilator settings need to be adjusted. When it goes well, this is a quick, fairly painless process. When it doesn't? Well, let me just say that watching a nurse stick your baby's bruised-up heel over and over again is not for the faint of heart. I'm guessing it's not fun for the nurse either...
Head Ultrasounds- Brain bleeds are a major concern for babies born way too early. Most hospitals do weekly ultrasounds to monitor for intracranial (or intraventricular) hemorrhaging. These are painless for the babies, but stressful for the parents. It is not uncommon for a small bleed to be spotted and subsequently resolve itself. Unfortunately, it is also not uncommon for a bleed to worsen and require treatment.
Eye Exams- Micropreemies are very susceptible to ROP or retinopathy of prematurity. There are varying grades of this (our daughter had a very severe case that required transport and retinal surgery) and it needs to be monitored on a weekly (or, in rare cases, more frequent) basis. The eye doctors will assure you that this exam is not really painful, but it is horrible to watch. This is mainly because of the device they use to keep your tiny baby's eye pried open. The ophthalmologist in our NICU wisely advised me to stay near, but not watch. I was given no such warning in Chicago... *shudder*
Preemie parents, what regular screening tests do you remember seeing your preemie go through?
We just had this little girl's 15 month well-baby check-up. She is, blessedly, beautifully healthy. While my son has always been giant (seriously- on track to be close to 6'9" tall!) and my former micropreemie is, no surprise, petite (barely tipping the scales at 30 lb at 4 1/2 years old), this third baby is the one I always joke is "normal-sized". ;) At 30 1/2" tall and 21 lb 13 oz, she is in the 65th and 40th percentiles, respectively.
The pediatrician and I discussed all those typical well-baby things... milestones, sleeping, and- of course- diet. Did I have any concerns?
Well... not really. Except...
"She doesn't like carbs."
"You mean she doesn't like bread?"
"No, she really doesn't like most carbs... well, except for corn. She likes frozen corn. But she has no interest in cereal, oatmeal, bread, pasta, rice..."
"Good for her! No wonder she's so healthy."
And that was that.
Now... I'm not saying that carbs are bad for babies. I'm not saying that babies who eat carbs are not healthy babies. Not in the least.
But, from my discussion with the doctor and from my research into what baby diets tend to lack, it seems to me that most babies would do fine with a whole lot more fruits, veggies, and proteins and decidedly less carbs (think cereals, puffs, crackers, Cheerios, etc...)
My little G eats- no joke- close to ten pounds of fresh and frozen fruits and veggies EVERY WEEK. That seems like an extraordinary amount of food for her little 21 lb self... but it's so good for her! She also loves cubed hard cheeses (think Swiss and sharp cheddar) and also chicken, ham, eggs, beans, and fish. She still nurses 2-3 times a day. She will eat small amounts of whole grain carbs here and there and, for now, we're okay with that. Given the choice of fruit or a cookie, she will choose the fruit every time. Given the option of a french fry or a carrot, the carrot will win hands down.
The truth is that this wasn't a diet plan we set out to put in place- it's just the way she likes to eat. Happily, it's a healthy way to go... and we're going to enjoy it as long as it lasts!
What I find surprising, though, is how the baby food companies seem to encourage us to push carbs on our kids. Their recommended first food? Cereal. "It's easiest on their little systems!" they insist, while- in truth- many babies do better with banana or avocado to start. First finger food? Puffs. But why? Aren't soft-cooked veggies or ripe fruit bits just as safe? Toddler meal plan? Often filled with pasta.
I'm just trying to figure out why we're being encouraged to push all these refined carbohydrates on our children... all while continuing to feed my baby girl a low carb diet.
Because, well, it works for us. And it works for our doctors. And I think it would work for lots of families... I just wish the big "baby expert" food companies out there would share that too.
I never buy Italian sausage. Well, never is a strong word... I may have purchased it once or twice. But, most frequently, I just use regular old "bulk breakfast sausage" in my recipes that call for Italian sausage. I need to point out here that I do not actually make any recipes that involve eating the sausage "as is" in that big ol' tube... I just don't like sausage THAT much.
Sausage purists won't like this tip but, in a pinch, you can easily use a tube of breakfast sausage in any recipe calling for a pound of Italian sausage. Here's how...
Brown the meat the same as you always would and, once most of the pink is gone, add 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning, and 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes. End of story. :)
It has been a very long time since I wrote a "My Story..." Monday post. I guess I felt like I had pretty much exhausted the tale of C's birth and the NICU journey. Don't get me wrong... there are always more stories to tell, but I thought I covered it pretty adequately.
And then something occurred to me...
The story didn't end there.
The consequences of her prematurity didn't end and our hospital visits were not over. So, today, I'm going to start the story of one of the darkest weeks of my life...
I'm going to tell you about when C. got hurt... under my watch.
I woke up that Tuesday morning and set about my busy daily routine just like usual. I had fed both my babies-- then nine- and nineteen-months, respectively-- and was getting them dressed and ready for the day. I was tired. No surprise there... I had two very little ones to care for and, as so many of you know, being mommy can be an exhausting job!
As I finished getting A. dressed, I heard the coffee maker shut off. Thank heavens. I poured myself a cup and carried it out to the living room. I set it on the top of the bookshelf, well out of the reach of either of my children.
We had had family visit a month or so earlier and we still had a mattress on our living room floor. I kind of liked having it there because it was a convenient place to play and snuggle with the kiddos. We loved to stretch out on it and read together. Anyway, I also liked to use it as a place to get C. dressed and changed. I set about doing just that.
A flash of red caught my eye several feet away...
My son was climbing the bookcase! I could see, from my spot by the mattress, the scalding hot black coffee starting to slosh over the top of the mug. I panicked. I could see an immediate dangerous situation and I reacted...
I rushed across the room to move my coffee and pull my 1 1/2 year old off the shelves.
I turned my back for a second. I admit it. And that's when it happened...
C. rolled off the mattress.
It was only a mattress right on the floor... less than a foot high. But she rolled to where she was trapped between the mattress and a desk. She shrieked- only once- and then cried.
I scooped up my precious tiny baby girl... because, really, at nine months she was just barely moving out of 0-3 month clothes. I held her close and her sobs started to ease. I held her up to let her "stand" on the table- something she had always loved- and she pulled up her right leg and refused to bear any weight on it.
Crying myself, I called the pediatrician. I described what had happened and how she was acting. The doctor felt it was highly unlikely she was very hurt, most likely just scared, but advised me to observe her behavior throughout the day.
I fed her a bottle of her specially thickened milk (the reason C could never truly breastfeed) and she drifted off in her morning nap. I played with A. and tried to feel optimistic.
When she woke up, I again tried to hold her up on her feet. She pulled up her right leg and cried out.
I called the pediatrician back and they told me to come in.
The doctor's quick evaluation still seemed to indicate that C. was fine, but- just to be safe- she ordered x-rays.
Our ped's office was adjacent to the hospital so it was a quick trip to get the x-ray done. I went back to the office to wait for the results.
The doctor walked out, knelt down before me, and took my hands. She looked me in the eyes and said...
"It's broken. Spiral fracture of the right femur. I am SO sorry."