Prematurity Awareness Month

November is Prematurity Awareness Month. Specifically, November 17 is World Prematurity Day. As with last year, this time of year brought up a lot of feelings for me, from pride to anxiety, and everything in between; often both at the same time.

One additional thing hit really close to home this year: the birth of a friend’s baby just shy of 26 weeks around the beginning of November. Sadly, her sweet boy fought for 24 brave days before losing his battle just last week. I had tried my best to be there for her during his NICU fight with hope and advice and an ear to listen, but nothing can prepare anyone for the death of a child. “Devastated” doesn’t even touch what I’m feeling right now, and I know what I feel is only a miniscule fraction of what she and her husband are going through. And while I know his path and health challenges were different than Emmett’s, his death hit me really hard, not only for the empathy I felt for my friend, but the realization that that could have easily been Emmett too. On a related note, survivor’s guilt is very real.

One positive thing that came from this past month is the reinforcement of just how much I want to help other preemie parents. I had mentioned previously that I was going through the steps to start volunteering at our NICU on the parent advisory board. The volunteer onboarding process is quite long, and I had kind of stalled out on the process with life being so busy, but this past month has lit a fire under me and I’m determined to make time to finally get onboarded at the hospital. I know it’s going to be hard at times. And I know I’ll shed some tears right along with the parents. But it’s something I feel called to do.

At the beginning of the month I found a “30 day preemie photo challenge” that I decided to participate in on Facebook. And while pulling up a photo per day and describing each left me feeling raw all over again, it was also cathartic to revisit our journey a little over a year later. If you’re connected to me on Facebook, this will be a repeat, but I thought I’d share the photos here as well.

Day 1: ultrasound pic

Day 2: baby bump pic (this was the last photo I would take of my pregnancy at 25.5 weeks)

Day 3: very first pic.

Day 4: tiny toes.

Day 5: little hands.

Day 6: tubes. After a while you learn to see past them to the beautiful baby underneath.

Day 7: first pic with mommy. I am forever grateful for our nurse, Glenda, who took it upon herself to capture this moment, as I was still in a state of complete shock.

Day 8: first pic with daddy. Also, first pic with brother. We really struggled with how to tell Theo that Emmett was here. Theo had just turned 3 and we weren’t sure how he would react or if it would be scary to see him like that. Fortunately, he didn’t know babies came into the world any other way. It was love at first sight and they’ve had an incredible bond ever since.

Day 9: favorite NICU pic. This was shortly after he moved from the isolette to an open crib. We were finally allowed to pick him up whenever we wanted. And while we couldn’t go more than a few steps due to his wires and monitors, it was the first time in almost two months I could do normal things like pick him up when he cried.

Day 10: first feed. Emmett was 4 days old when his medical team first introduced just 1 mL of colostrum via feeding tube. I wasn’t there, but I snapped this photo when I arrived at the hospital a couple hours afterward. I remember I could already see a remarkable difference in him. His skin looked more vibrant, he was calm, and he already looked so much stronger than he had the day before.

Day 11: first outfit. They had just turned the heat in his isolette down to room temperature in preparation for moving him to an open crib and this was the first time he wore clothes. The hospital actually provided most of his clothes since many parents end up donating their preemie-size clothes to the NICU after their babies outgrow them. We did have a few preemie outfits we got as gifts, and it felt good to pay it forward by donating those to the NICU as he outgrew them too.

Day 12: sleeping. Emmett slept a LOT in the hospital and I remember thinking maybe we lucked out with a good sleeper this time around. Turns out that was just his prematurity and we would soon learn Emmett would follow in his big brother’s footsteps by not sleeping through the night until he was 9 months old (adjusted).

Day 13: awake. This was after he had pulled his feeding tube out at 3 a.m. The older he got, the harder it was to get him to leave it alone. I always told myself that feisty attitude was what made him such a fighter, though.

Day 14: any NICU pic. I walked by this wall hundreds of times during our 98-day stay. And it made me smile every time. Under each photo is a plaque that lists the child’s weight and gestation at birth. Seeing these beautiful, smiling faces and knowing they all had scary starts like ours filled me with so much hope.

Day 15: nurses. We had many wonderful nurses throughout our stay. Kris was one of our favorites. Not only for the way he cared for Emmett, but for how he made Theo feel special too. This was especially meaningful since I had a lot of guilt over feeling like Theo’s needs always came second during this time. This was the day Emmett got to graduate to the pediatric wing and I loved that Kris involved Theo in helping move Emmett down the hall.

Day 16: doctors. I couldn’t find any pictures of our doctors, but they were all wonderful too. So I’ll post another nurse picture. This was Emmett’s first bath. The nurse on the right, Glenda, kept saying it was “spa day!” I wouldn’t say Emmett was exactly relaxed, but I always knew we were in good hands when Glenda was our nurse.

Day 17: socks. We didn’t bother much with socks in the NICU, but we had some adorable footie jams!

Day 18: hat. My parents got us this hat and it was one of our favorite items we were gifted. He certainly was — and still is — our little fighter.

Day 19: kangaroo care. I would spend hours holding him skin-to-skin like this. We were only allowed to take him out of his isolette once a day, but we could hold him for as long as we wanted. His cares (diaper, temperature and feeding) were every three hours, sometimes four. So I would often hold him for the entire stretch between cares to maximize my snuggle time.

Day 20: funny pic. #bluesteel

Day 21: look, no tubes! On August 1 we got to lose oxygen support, and on August 20 he finally got to lose the feeding tube. Being able to see his entire face unobstructed was a huge step toward some semblance of normalcy after more than three months of “stuff” on his face.

Day 22: getting big. I remember when he hit 6 lbs and thinking, full-term babies are born in the 6-lb range! He’s normal baby size now! He was just over two months old here (37 weeks adjusted).

Day 23: family pic. Because D and I were in two places at once almost our entire NICU stay, we didn’t get a family picture until the day we were finally discharged.

Day 24: random preemie pic. My view most days.

Day 25: in the bed. Moving to an open crib was the first major milestone we were able to check off our discharge list.

Day 26: car seat test. This was the day before he went home. We had to prove he could handle sitting in a car seat for an hour with no events (desats or bradycardias) before they would discharge us.

Day 27: holiday in the NICU. I only spent a few hours at the hospital on the 4th of July. I spent the afternoon holding Emmett in between taking Theo to a parade that morning and watching fireworks that evening. Holidays are hard in the NICU, especially when you have other children at home. You’re torn between wanting to be there for your baby, and creating memories and preserving traditions for your other children.

Day 28: going home outfit. It’s funny, I had Theo’s going home outfit picked out months in advance. But it didn’t hit me we might want something special for Emmett until a couple days beforehand. I guess we were a bit preoccupied. Thankfully, a coworker had given us this adorable vest and tie onesie so he still got to come home in style.

Day 29: first day home. There’s something so extraordinarily ordinary about this photo. It makes me exhale just looking at it, and I remember feeling like I hadn’t fully exhaled in more than three months. In that moment our family was finally complete and under one roof.

Day 30: today. Today Emmett is such a joy and his zest for life is contagious.

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Super Emmett

It’s been a while since I’ve given an Emmett update. This week he turned 16 months old; 13 adjusted. Last month we celebrated the anniversary of his homecoming – in lieu of celebrating his birthday in May. We just weren’t quite ready for a birthday party when he turned a year. For one, he wasn’t developmentally ready for cake and what’s a first birthday without a baby smearing himself with cake? But also, we weren’t quite emotionally ready for celebration. Honestly, the day Emmett was born was the worst day of my life. It’s a pretty shitty way to feel and I’ve definitely had my fair share of guilt over those feelings.

That said, his “homecoming-iversary” party turned out to be the perfect way to celebrate E’s unique journey, and I threw myself into the details of the planning, giving him the Pinterest-worthy party he deserved. I know he didn’t care about the details, but I love that kind of thing and it was meaningful for me to pull off “the perfect party.” We went with a superhero theme since is our super hero, after all! Here are some pictures from the day:








In other updates, he’s now almost 19 lbs and 29 inches long, which puts him in the adjusted 18th percentile for weight and 32nd for height. For his actual age he’s in the 3rd percentile for both. But he’s FINALLY on the charts for his actual age!!! This is huge, since a few months ago he was in the 3rd percentile for his adjusted age and nowhere close to the charts for his actual age. We’ve been seeing a nutritionist and working to add more calories to his diet and it’s great to finally see it paying off. His lungs have been in relatively good shape lately too. He still breathes hard, but he hasn’t been wheezing, and we haven’t had to use his inhalers for a few weeks. Of course, winter is coming. I’m bracing myself for the onslaught of colds sure to hit our household, knowing every cold and illness usually goes straight to his chest. I need to find out if we’re still eligible to receive the Synagis shot to protect him against RSV this year.

In other health news, we’re facing ear tubes, adenoid removal and possible tonsilectomy this fall. At a recent checkup, the pediatrician noticed his tonsils were huge. She referred us to a pediatric ENT, who confirmed — on a scale of 1-4 his tonsils were a 4 and are actually touching. He also determined his adenoids were huge and in need of removal, and his frequent ear infections made him a good candidate for ear tubes. We’ve been down the ear tube path with Theo before (in fact, we’re seeing the same ENT at Children’s), but the adenoids and tonsils are uncharted territory for us. The ENT explained that they don’t typically remove tonsils on kids under 3, but ordered a sleep study to see if the tonsils are causing any complications like apnea. If so, the benefits would outweigh the risks and we’ll go ahead and remove at the same time they do ear tubes and adenoids so he’ll only have to be put under once. We completed the sleep study three weeks ago and are still waiting on the results (it can take 3-4 weeks to analyze everything). The sleep study was not fun. They had him hooked up to a bazillion monitors, which he of course, hated. And I got to spend the night on a couch in the hospital with him, which opened the floodgates with my PTSD. It felt very much like being back in the NICU, even though logically, I understood we were there under much different circumstances.

Speaking of health stuff, I recently looked back at my calendar and tallied all the various appointments we’ve had this past year. Let’s just say I’m thankful for a flexible work schedule and an understanding employer, in addition to a husband with the same flexibility and understanding at work. I’ve taken E to most appointments, but D has taken him to several as well.

  • 27 occupational therapy
  • 3 physical therapy
  • 3 feeding specialist
  • 7 lactation
  • 3 nutrition
  • 1 weight check
  • 1 swallow study
  • 4 pulmonologist
  • 1 echocardiogram
  • 1 public health
  • 5 Synagis shots
  • 5 well-child
  • 13 sick-child
  • 1 ophthalmology
  • 1 dentist
  • 1 otolaryngology
  • 1 sleep study consultation
  • 1 sleep study
  • 2 infant high risk clinic

Regarding that last one – the infant high risk clinic – we saw them once when he was around six months adjusted, and again at a year adjusted. It’s a clinic run by the UW and they follow preemies and other high-risk infants through the first few years of life to assess factors like developmental/neurological delays/disorders, hearing, growth, etc. I was really nervous for this last appointment since they would be formally evaluating him for any delays and I’m happy to report passed with flying colors! They use the Bayley scale to assess development, and told us anything over an 84 is considered normal. He scored a 105 for cognitive and 89 for physical development! And they were able to rule out both cerebral palsy and autism, both of which are common among preemies. Such a relief. He does have a slight speech delay, which they attribute to his frequent ear infections (they also noted he has some mild, likely reversible, hearing loss from the fluid in his ears). Theo also didn’t talk much until he was almost two, and now he never shuts up. So I’m not too concerned about the speech delay yet.

It’s been a really emotionally challenging year, but he’s worth it all. I’m hoping this coming year brings us fewer appointments and health issues, and we can just sit back and marvel at how fast he’s growing up – and maybe actually take the time to stop and enjoy it. I do worry that I’ve spent his entire life willing him to grow – and I haven’t taken the time to enjoy the fact that he’ll never be as little as he is today. He’s now walking, sleeping all night, eating real food, and drinking cow’s milk – which means I am DONE pumping! I’m still nursing morning and night and plan to do so a while longer like I did with Theo. I remember those last few months nursing Theo were my favorite part of my breastfeeding journey last time – when I wasn’t concerned about supply or feeding schedules and we were just sort of in it for the extra credit at that point. He still doesn’t have a lot of hair, but I’m noticing it’s starting to grow in curly in the back like Theo’s was at this age. He’s definitely starting to look less like a baby and more like a toddler. We couldn’t be more proud of our cute little superhero.

I’ll wrap this long post up with some more pictures from the last few months.






12 months old

I’m three weeks late on posting, but Emmett is officially a year old. The day came and went pretty uneventfully. We’ve decided to celebrate the anniversary of his homecoming in August this year instead of his birthday, so we’ll do a cake, presents, party, etc. at that time. I did put him in the same “Uno” shirt I got for Theo’s first birthday and sent him to daycare in that, and I posted something on Facebook to commemorate the day. Mostly I’m happy to have it behind us. I had mentioned in my previous post that it’s been a little surreal to see photos pop up on my Timehop app of my pregnancy, and I’m happy to not be seeing those anymore, but now I’m seeing NICU pictures, so there’s that. Actually, I’ve started re-reading my daily blog posts from last year each day, and while it does bring up a few feelings of anxiety still, I’m also finding it a little bit healing.

He really has come so far.

Adjusted age: 9 months

Stats: 16.2 lbs and 27 inches

Milestones: Clapping! Walking with a walker!

Sleeping: All night, most nights! Still wakes once a couple times per week. Naps are pretty predictably and hour mid-late morning and another hour early-mid afternoon. I’m thankful we didn’t have to do any sleep training this time around and he kind of figured it out on his own. I hated sleep training Theo but we were desperate, with him waking every two hours!

Eating: He’s doing three solid meals per day now, plus an afternoon snack. Not as interested in nursing these days and is pretty easily distracted, but we’re still trying to get bottles/nursing sessions in him every 3 hours since he needs the calories and breastmilk is more calorie-dense than the solid food he’s getting. Still adding avocado, butter or full-fat yogurt to his purees. Gotta fatten this peanut up!

Personality: The two words I’d use to describe him are happy and busy. So busy. He’s into everything these days. I thought Theo was a busy kid, but Emmett is insatiable when it comes to exploring and getting into stuff. I think he may be my wild child.

Likes: Getting into stuff and exploring, above all else. Also loves his brother so much. He lights up whenever Theo walks into the room.

Dislikes: His inhalers, the Nose Frida and being away from mom. Separation anxiety has officially arrived. I used to be able to drop him off at daycare without much fuss. He’s so intent on exploring and getting into things that he’d crawl over and empty the toy bin as soon as I set him down and hardly even noticed I left. Recently, though, he cries and grabs my legs if I try to leave the room. Breaks my heart.

Mama: Still obsessing over milk supply, though the Domperidone has helped a LOT. I’m still not up to full supply, but I’m usually only 2-3 oz short of what I need to send with him to daycare each day, and there have been a handful of days where I actually pumped enough! I started on the lowest recommended dose of 60 mg per day, though, and have recently increased to 70. I can go as high as 160, I believe, if needed. I’m so close to making enough, that I’m hesitant to increase much more since I’ll need to wean slowly. As of now I still have enough freezer supply to make up the difference and I think E is pretty close to dropping a bottle at daycare now that he’s eating more solids.

In other exciting news, I’ve just begun the process of becoming a volunteer at the NICU where Emmett stayed. There’s a parent advisory board that meets with NICU parents to help them through their journey and I found this resource to be so valuable when we were there. It just really helps to talk to someone who gets it; who’s been there and come out the other side. I know it may be tough to be back there, and I’m sure it’ll bring up a lot of emotions, but I also think it will be healing and a good way to give back. More to come on that — it’s quite the process to get ramped up and approved to volunteer (both by the board and by the hospital) and they don’t like you to officially start until you’ve been out of the NICU for a year, so I wouldn’t start doing any work for them until August, anyway.

Still can’t believe we have a one year-old. I don’t think it’ll really feel like we do until he’s a year adjusted. Right now he just feels like your typical 9 month-old.

Here are some photos from the past month, including some professional shots we had taken.











 

11 months old

It’s been an interesting month, health-wise. As I mentioned before, we’ve been seeing a pulmonologist at Children’s Hospital, due to E’s chronic breathing issues. After chest x-ray and echocardiogram results came back normal, the pulmonologist decided to refer us to a feeding therapist to check for silent aspiration as a potential cause for his wheezing and coughing. She didn’t think it would be the culprit, but wanted to “rule it out.” Unfortunately, we weren’t able to rule it out because it turns out that is the culprit. Or at least part of it. Emmett is aspirating as he’s eating. So now we have to add thickener to his bottles. As of now I’m still allowed to continue breastfeeding morning, night and weekends as I have been, as long as I keep him upright and give him breaks, but we have a swallow study coming up May 2 to assess the severity. Depending on how badly he’s aspirating, we could end up having to go to all bottles. After working so hard to breastfeed this kid, now this.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised by anything at this point. Eveyone had warned me that prematurity doesn’t end when you leave the NICU, and that the consequences of being born early can follow kids for quite a while — sometimes a lifetime. But I’ll admit that a part of me had hoped he would be the exception. He is such a strong little boy, though, and I know we will get through this. And as frustrating as it is to keep encountering hurdle after hurdle, I am also acutely aware of just how much worse things could be. Perspective is so important.

With that said, here’s what’s going on with our 11 month-old:

Adjusted age: 8 months.

Stats: 15.6 lbs and 27 inches. We have growth finally! He is still a peanut, just barely clinging to the charts around third percentile for his adjusted age and nowhere near the charts for his actual age, but it’s nice to see progress. Thank you, butter.

Milestones: Finally reliable at sitting (without feeling like I need to spot him), pulls up to standing, and even lets go briefly.

Sleeping: Getting much better! He sleeps through the night about half the time, and the times he doesn’t he’s only up once. But a good friend told me to never trust a baby. So there’s that.

Eating: This kid loves to eat, and he’s getting much more efficient about it. In other words, more is finally ending up in his belly than on his belly. He also doesn’t appear to be picky at all, and will even eat any green veggie (could have something to do with the fact we’ve been instructed to add butter to everything, though!). We’re experimenting with some dissolvable finger foods like puffs, yogurt melts and mum mums, but haven’t made the leap to real table food yet. I’m still terrified of choking and he also still doesn’t have any teeth yet! I know I need to get over that fear and start giving him stuff soon, though.

Personality: So happy and very curious and determined! He gets into everything, but is also very good about responding to me correcting and redirecting him when he gets into something he shouldn’t. He seems very socially aware, if that’s even possible for an eight month-old. It will be interesting to see if this trait of his continues as he develops.

Likes: Bathtime, big brother, getting into stuff.

Dislikes: Still hates his inhalers.

Mama: Still stressing about my milk supply. Interestingly, when we took E in for his feeding evaluation, the OT, who is also an IBCLC (lactation specialist), confirmed what I’ve known deep down for quite a while — I’m not making enough milk. I knew I was only pumping about half of what he needed, though everyone kept telling me babies are more efficient than the pump and if he was really hungry he would let us know — so I had just continued to dip into my freezer stash to get him though the day at daycare and continued to exclusively nurse on the weekends. But the OT reiterated that while yes, babies are more efficient than the pump, nursing is still supply and demand, and by the time I got to the weekend my body was already adjusted to what I was pumping all week — about half of what he needed. On the weekends he was probably nursing just enough to take the edge off, but there’s no way he was getting enough from me alone. 

I cried on the way home from the appointment, feeling like a shitty mom for basically starving my baby on the weekends. Thankfully, the OT/IBCLC and I worked out a plan, and I’m feeling good about what we have to do to move forward and get him enough food without losing any more of my supply. So now after nursing, I’m supposed to offer him an extra ounce or two via bottle, and ideally pump too, though she acknowledged that wasn’t very practical with busy schedules. She also said I was a good candidate for Domperidone, which is supposed to be very effective at increasing milk production. In fact, it’s so effective that adoptive mothers sometimes take it so they can actually induce lactation. I just started it and am hoping to start seeing results soon. If it doesn’t work, I think I’m probably ready to throw in the towel on nursing once we reach the end of our freezer stash, knowing I’ve tried everything I could. And depending on the results of the swallow study, that may be the direction we’re headed anyway. I had hoped to nurse to a year adjusted, but I may have to settle for a year actual.

A year. How is that possible it’s been almost a year?

 

Playing with the big boys


Loves his play kitchen.


Family.


Easter egg hunting.


Swimming in his grandparents’ pool in Arizona


Meeting his great great grandma for the first time

10 months old

What a fun little guy we have. I remember thinking at one point there was no way I could love another child as much as I love Theo. But everyone told me your heart makes room and grows for more children and they were totally right. Emmett is the perfect addition to our family and our lives are so much better because of him. He is so similar to T in many ways, but has his own quirks and personality, and well, we just love him to pieces. This is such a fun age.

Adjusted age: 7 months

Stats: 14.8 lbs and 26.25 inches. Still not a lot of growth with this little peanut, unfortunately.

Milestones: Crawling everywhere, getting better at sitting unassisted (but still topples frequently), standing pretty well while holding onto something, and almost pulling himself up to standing. He’s also eating more foods with texture, like Mum Mums and puffs.

Sleeping: For the last month he’s been sleeping horribly! Up 3-4 times per night and not settling as easily as he had been. But then just this last week we seem to have turned a corner (knock on wood). He now takes a while to settle initially, and might wake up a few times the first couple hours he’s down, but after that initial settling he’s been sleeping through until morning! I don’t know that I’d count it as sleeping through the night since he’s still up a couple times, but those wakeups are usually before I go to bed, so he’s sleeping through my night. I’ll take it. Naps are still hit or miss. Sometimes he’ll give us 2-3, one- to two-hour naps. Other days he crap naps for 30 minutes at a time. But he’s happy, so I’ll assume he’s getting enough sleep.

Eating: As mentioned earlier, we’re experimenting with different textures and he’s doing really well. He loves food. We haven’t really found anything he doesn’t like yet, and we’ve even begun venturing into some green vegetables like peas and green beans. We are seeing a nutritionist to help him pack on the pounds, and she is having us add butter (yes, butter!) to his purees to give him some extra calories. Maybe that’s why he eats his veggies with no protest. Everything is better with butter, right? For fruits, she’s having us mix with avocado for extra fat. Funny, I was talking to a coworker recently who has 16 year-old twins who were born premature. He said they were also instructed to add butter to their food to help them gain weight and to this day they still add butter to everything (and are still very petite). Nursing has gotten better again. He isn’t quite as distracted as he was, though I still find I have to take him somewhere quiet sometimes to get him to focus. He probably never will be the easy nurser T was, but I’m thankful we’ve made it as far as we have, considering preemies are notorious for having difficulty breastfeeding. 

Personality: Always happy, and always moving. He is one busy guy, just like T was, and he’s very determined in all that he does. I like to think this “go getter” attitude will serve him well later in life.

Likes: Exploring, laughing, bathtime, big brother, eating! I’m especially glad he’s enjoying eating since he still needs to pack on the pounds.

Dislikes: Still hates his inhalers. I feel like I’m torturing him when I give them to him and really hope I’m not harming him psychologically.

Mama: I’m still stressing over my milk supply, though I have noticed with his increased stretches of sleep at night, I’m able to nurse him in the morning and then still pump more than my usual amount afterward. Interestingly, my subsequent pumps throughout the day have been higher volume as well. I’m sure I’m making the same amount but just pumping what I would have been nursing overnight when he was waking multiple times. But if nothing else, it’s a nice morale booster to see the higher volume. Though I have heard sleep is good for your supply, so it could be that these longer stretches of sleep have allowed my body to recuperate some and produce more. 

The closer we get to his birthday, the more emotional and reflective I’m getting. I’m sad that the first year has almost come and gone and I haven’t been able to fully enjoy it because I’ve spent so much time worrying; willing him to grow; feeling like we were always trying to catch up. At the same time, I’m fiercely proud of him and how far he’s come this past year. He had such a rough start and he’s doing amazing, all things considered. I know we aren’t out of the woods on complications, and some things could possibly crop up in adolescence and early adulthood. I made the mistake of googling long term affects of prematurity and saw some scary stuff. But he’s just so amazing and bright and happy, that sometimes I can’t shake the feeling that he must be destined for greatness. I have these visions of him on some stage somewhere, someday, telling his story of how he overcame the odds. No matter what happens, he’s got a pretty amazing group of family and friends that love him and will cheer him on.

Drinking from a sippy cup like a big boy.

Do I have something on my face?

Smiling in his sleep.

With his buddy, TJ.


 

9 months old

Can we really be getting that close to a year old? Time is so non-linear when your baby has two ages and you vacillate between viewing him as a nine month-old (because that’s what he is, and he’s been in your life for nine months) and a six month-old (because he looks and acts like a six month-old and you’ve only had him home for six months). I will say, I’ve started just telling people his actual age when they ask, as I’m learning most people have no clue what a six or a nine month-old look like. Sometimes I’ll get a comment about how little he is (usually from other parents of young children), at which point I’ll say he’s a preemie and has some catching up to do. Sometimes this leads to a lot of questions I may or may not feel like answering, but a few times I’ve ended up connecting with other parents of preemies. In fact, just last week I met a woman whose baby was in the same NICU at the same time as Emmett! Small world.

Here’s what’s happening at nine months:

Adjusted age: 6 months.

Stats: 14.6 lbs and 25.75 inches. Not much growth since last month. It may just be his continued illnesses and increased activity, but we’ve started seeing a pulmonologist for his wheezing and she referred us to a nutritionist because she wants him to start packing on the pounds. His lungs will grow and get stronger as he does.

Milestones: Eating solid foods! So far we’ve tried sweet potatoes, avocados, apples, bananas and peas. He still pushes his tongue out more than he swallows, and so more ends up on his shirt and tray than in his stomach most nights, but his OT feels good about how he’s doing, and the important thing is that he enjoys it. Right now solid foods are less about nutrition (he still gets everything he needs from breastmilk), and more about introducing flavors and textures. He is also so close to crawling, but hasn’t quite made any forward progress. He gets up on his hands and knees and rocks back and forth, and sometimes goes backwards, so I’m sure it’ll happen any day now. Update: I had drafted this post last night, and he officially made his first forward crawl tonight.

Sleeping: We’re dealing with a little bit of a regression. After getting used to just one wakeup per night, he’s now usually up two to three times per night. But he’s been nursing less during the day (more on that below) and I feel like his middle of the night feedings are his most productive, so I’ll take any opportunity to get some extra calories in him. As tired as I am, I know it’s temporary. Theo was the world’s worst sleeper as a baby and he’s great now. I’ll sleep again someday. For now, coffee.

Eating: Solid foods once per day (at dinnertime so we can all eat as a family), four to five 4-ounce bottles at daycare (fortified with NeoSure), and nursing whenever we’re home together. As I mentioned earlier, he’s been nursing less, though. He’ll often latch for 3-4 minutes and then pop off and fight me if I try to relatch him. I think it’s mostly an issue of him being easily distracted, as he does this on the bottle too, but will focus and eat better if we go into a quiet room. He also eats really well when he’s sleepy and relaxed. The rest of the time, he’s got a major case of FOMO (fear of missing out). I’m hoping this is a quick phase, because it’s incredibly frustrating, and my supply is already struggling and it worries me when he goes several feeds in a row without eating much.

Personality: I sound like a broken record, but he’s just so HAPPY. Smiles at everyone and is incredibly social. So far no stranger danger, though I know that often kicks in around this time. He also loves other babies, which is funny because I didn’t think they typically noticed other babies at this stage. Maybe it’s because he’s used to being in daycare with other babies, but when we get together with friends and we put the babies on the floor together he stares and smiles at the other babies — and then usually tries to grab their face.

Likes: Being tossed in the air. I get the biggest belly laughs out of him when I toss him up. Also laughs and laughs at big brother, sometimes when he isn’t even trying to be funny. Which causes Theo to whine and tell us to make baby Emmett stop laughing at him.

Dislikes: His inhalers. As I mentioned earlier, we’re seeing a pulmonologist to get his wheezing and coughing under control. He is now on a twice daily steroid inhaler, and an albuterol rescue inhaler as needed. They come with a special mask that goes over his mouth and nose so you can puff it in and he is not a fan. Especially since you have to hold it over his face until he takes 5-6 breaths… and then repeat. Sometimes if I catch him in a good mood and talk to him in a high squeaky voice while I give it to him I can avoid a freakout, but most of the time he screams and cries and tries to fight us.

Mama: I’m … surviving, I guess. As I mentioned last month, I’m feeling pretty overwhelmed, like I’m failing in all areas of my life. It hasn’t really gotten any better, but it hasn’t gotten any worse, either. I’m madly in love with this little man but also feel like I have a hard time just enjoying him because I’m always worried and stressed. I’m sure the stress is one factor in my diminishing milk supply, which in turn also makes me stress out (it’s a vicious cycle). Thankfully we still have a huge freezer stash. He’s getting about half fresh and half frozen at daycare because I can’t pump enough in a day to send with him the next day. At one point I had an oversupply and managed to completely fill two freezers with milk. We’re blowing through that at an alarming rate, though. At some point he’ll be eating more solids and drinking less milk, but at the rate we’re going, we’ll probably have to supplement with formula at some point, unless I can increase my supply. I’m pumping as much as I possibly can during the workday, nursing as much as possible at home, taking fenugreek, eating oatmeal and trying to up my water intake, but it’s not making much of a difference. Not that formula is the end of the world (and we’re already fortifying anyway), but it makes me sad sometimes that we don’t have the (relatively) easy breastfeeding relationship that Theo and I had. The fact that this is our last baby and so much of it hasn’t gone how I’d planned makes me mourn that aspect so much more.

Whew. Okay. As consolation for making it through my therapy session, here are some cute baby pictures.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Sweet potato face.

Baby in a bar!

All ready for a walk in the snow.

Tummy time with cousin Bellamie.

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8 months old

How do we have an eight month-old? It truly does not seem possible. We’ve had kind of a rough month, with Emmett being constantly sick. In the past six weeks he’s had bronchiolitis, three ear infections, and been to the doctor seven (yes, seven) times. He’s been tested for RSV, influenza and pertussis (whooping cough). All negative, thankfully, though it doesn’t change the fact he was wheezing for weeks on end and coughing so hard and for so long at night I thought for sure he would stop breathing and pass out. Thankfully he seems to finally be on the mend, though the pediatrician said this may be our new normal when it comes to colds for his first couple years, thanks to his premature lungs. I’ll admit, I’ve been having a really hard time with this. I’ve been saying lately that he seems like such a normal baby that it’s almost easy to forget everything he’s been through. But then something that should be as benign as a cold comes along and completely upends our lives, reminding us that no, he is not a normal baby. On multiple occasions I’ve cried myself to sleep, listening to him cough and wheeze. Mad at the universe for dealing us this hand. Scared for his future and what else could be in store health-wise. Overcome with emotion because of how much I love him and just want him to be okay.

I will say, throughout all this, he continues to be the happiest baby I’ve ever met. It’s almost as if he understands he’s been through worse and is taking it all in stride. I joke that it’s because he feels bad for all he’s put us through, so the least he can do is be a happy baby. Whatever the case, he’s pretty amazing.

Okay, let’s get to it. Here’s what’s happening with the Amazing Emmett at eight months:

Adjusted age: 5 months

Stats: 14 lbs and 25.5 inches

Milestones: Finally good at being on his tummy and holding himself up, and really trying to crawl! I really wouldn’t be surprised if he’s crawling by next monthly update. When he’s on his back he uses his legs to scoot himself backwards — kind of reverse crawling. Definitely wants to move.

Sleeping: Still usually up once a night — sometimes twice, but sometimes none. Naps are getting longer and more consistent, but I still can’t get him to nap in his crib, so he mostly naps in his swing at home. They manage to get him to nap in a crib at daycare, but he also takes much shorter naps there, so I’m okay with the swing for now at home. 

Eating: Still exclusively nursing at home and still getting four to five 3.5-4 oz bottles a day at daycare. We’re still fortifying bottles of pumped milk with NeoSure for extra calories, but I’m planning to ask his doctor at his next visit whether we can stop fortifying or at least try another type of formula, as this stuff really wreaks havoc on his digestive system. Lately he’s been going 4-5 days without pooping followed by 2-3 days of basically making up for lost time. And he’s so gassy! He hasn’t gained much weight (and no length) in the past month, though, so I’m not hopeful we’ll get the green light to stop fortifying, even thought I’m sure the slow growth has been due to illness. His OT thinks he’s ready to try solid food so we may start those in another week or so. 

Personality: Happy, happy happy. He’s lately developed a habit of screeching — and if you only heard him you’d think he was in pain or upset — but if you look over at him he’s got a huge smile on his face. I think he’s just experimenting with his voice. 

Likes: Big brother. I mean, isn’t mom supposed to be a baby’s favorite person in the world? Pretty sure I’m in second place, behind a three year-old. But I’m okay with that, because it’s so cute. And the adoration is mutual. These two could not love each other more, and I hope it always stays that way.

Dislikes: Still pretty much the only thing he hates is when we have to suck the snot out of his nose. But even then, he’s totally fine afterward.

Mama: I guess I already poured out the emotional chaos I’m dealing with these days. I think I may be dealing with a bit of a delayed PTSD reaction, to be completely honest. Funny, I went to a dinner with a preemie moms group I belong to about a month ago and many of them were talking about things like PTSD and PPD and how it didn’t hit them until about 6-8 months later. I nodded along empathetically, but inside was thinking “pssh… I’m good.” Yep. Eating my words (or thoughts, rather) right about now. I think, maybe, had things kept going well, I might have been able to continue to push off those thoughts indefinitely. But the constant sickness and the realization that prematurity didn’t end when we left the hospital basically brought it all crashing back. Some days I feel like I could probably benefit from some therapy. D and I both probably could, though he’d never admit it. But the idea of trying to make time for one more thing in our lives when I’m barely managing to juggle everything as it is? Would be laughable if it weren’t so sad. Maybe at some point I’ll try to set something up. In the meantime, writing has always been therapeutic. That is, when I can find the time to write…

Okay, here are a few photos from the last month.


7 months old

True to form, this seven-month update is closer to his eight-month birthday. But at least the photo was taken at exactly seven months. Time is flying and this little man has become such an important part of our lives. I’m so proud of him and how far he’s come. 

Adjusted age: 4 months

Stats: 13.4 lbs. and 25.5 inches

Milestones: rolling like crazy. Babbling with consonants. Really wants to crawl! Theo was an early crawler at six months, and I won’t be surprised if Emmett crawls by six months adjusted (which would be nine months actual).

Sleeping: Still waking up 1-2 times most nights. Naps are getting more substantial and consistent – usually around 3 per day: one long one mid-day with a shorter one in the morning and late afternoon.

Eating: Nursing is going well, despite some supply issues (more on that later). He’s taking about 3.5 oz per bottle at daycare, still fortified with NeoSure, and then we’re pretty much exclusively nursing at home. I don’t even bring backup bottles with me anymore, which is so nice.

Personality: Still the happiest baby I’ve ever met. He’s been sick a lot since he started daycare, but even that doesn’t get him down. Pretty much the only time he cries is when he’s hungry. He gets a little fussy and needy in the evenings before bed, but that’s easily remedied by just holding him. I think after a long day at daycare he’s just a little tired and probably misses us. 

Likes: Being tickled. His neck is especially ticklish and sometimes when I’m getting him dressed, just pulling his shirt over his head sends him into a fit of giggles. I need to capture this on video one of these days. He also adores his big brother. Anything T does is basically the most hilarious thing he’s ever seen. The bond these two already have is honestly my favorite part of being a mom.

Dislikes: Saline and suction. Because he’s been sick so much we’ve had to give him saline drops and suction out his nose. He really fights it, and he’s freakishly strong. But after I’m done he’s back to his happy self.

Mama: As I briefly mentioned earlier, I’ve been battling some milk supply issues, and it’s been stressing me out (which I have heard can also affect your supply, but I have yet to figure out how to break THAT cycle!). It all started when I got mastitis a couple months ago. Then it dipped again when I got my period, but seemed to recover. But then it plummeted again. There are times when I get ONE ounce total (from both sides) in a pumping session. And even on a normal day, I’m not making enough to send with him to daycare the next day. I’m thankful I have such a huge freezer stash, and truthfully it’s good to have an excuse to use that before it all goes bad. But the low pump output made me worry that I might not be producing enough to exclusively nurse while we’re home together. I mean, if I’m only pumping an ounce in a session sometimes, that’s obviously not enough for a full meal for him. But I had also heard that babies are more efficient than a pump, and that pump output isn’t necessarily indicative of what you’re producing. So I rented a baby scale from the breastfeeding center at the hospital for a couple weeks and weighed him before and after feeding just like when we were back in the NICU. And while there were definitely times he didn’t eat much, I noticed he would usually make up for it at the next feeding. I’m assuming this is all normal (after all, my appetite varies throughout the day too), and it was reassuring to see he’s probably nursing enough. I still find it depressing when I have a sucky pumping session, but I’m not as worried about his intake anymore. The real test will be at his next appointment, whether he’s still following his growth curve.

Here are some photos since our last update:

 

6 months old

It’s hard to believe half a year has passed already. By this time with Theo it felt like he’d been in our lives forever. But since we only got to take E home three months ago, he still feels pretty new. I remember when he was born, I tried to adopt an optimistic outlook about his impending NICU time — I told myself the NICU was essentially taking over for me for the third trimester. And while those three months in the NICU felt like an eternity at the time, now that we’re on the other side, it really does kind of feel like those three months were my third trimester, and now we have a three month-old. Who’s actually six months old. Minor details.

Adjusted age: three months.

Stats: 12.2 lbs and 23 inches.

Milestones: Laughing (yay!), and grabbing toys. Puts everything in his mouth. Really close to rolling over.

Sleeping: Naps are mostly cat naps. Still doing pretty well with nighttime sleep – compared to Theo, at least! It’s probably a good thing we had a bad sleeper for our first child, because it makes E’s sleep habits feel like a cake walk. I hear other moms complaining about their babies waking up twice a night and I’m over here like, two wakeups? That’s not bad! Depending on what time E goes down for the night, he’s usually up once around 2 or 3 a.m., and then again around 5 or 6. Since I get up for work at 6 on weekdays anyway, this isn’t terrible. When he wakes at 6 I quickly feed him before hopping in the shower. And we’ve finally mastered the sidelying nursing, which means when he wakes closer to 5, I can just pull him into bed with me to nurse, and I can fall back asleep until my alarm goes off.

Eating: I’m happy to report we are FINALLY almost exclusively nursing – when we’re together, anyway. I still have to pump at work, but that’s been the plan all along. He usually takes four 3.5 oz bottles at daycare, each fortified with 1T of NeoSure powder, and then we almost exclusively nurse at home. Every once in a while he’s finicky at the breast, so I still usually pack a backup bottle when we’re out and about, just in case, but I rarely find myself needing it anymore. It’s been a long road — we’ve been fighting this for five months — but I think my stubborn nature has paid off, despite how many times I wanted to give up. 

Personality: He is just a really happy baby. Smiles and laughs at anyone and everyone, and still rarely cries, unless he’s hungry. He’ll fuss a bit in the evenings, but there’s never a problem that can’t be solved by milk, a toy, or standing up and walking around.

Likes: Being upright and walking around (Theo was the same). He always wants to see what’s going on. Also loves being naked, diaper changes and bathtime … probably because those involve being naked.

Dislikes: Shots! Poor bubs was a human pincushion at his last appointment. He got his six-month shots, plus his flu shot, plus his first dose of Synagis (protection against RSV). I’ve never heard him scream like that and it made me cry too. He goes back later this month for his second flu shot, second Synagis dose and his Hep-B vaccine (they opted not to do it at the last series since he was getting so many shots already). I’m officially calling “not it” and making D take him to that one.

Mama: I think the postpartum hair loss has finally subsided. I also chopped about 10 inches off my hair, so it’s been a bit more manageable overall. I got mastitis a few weeks ago, which was awful, and my milk supply took a serious hit. I’ve been taking fenugreek, drinking milk-boosting teas and trying to work oatmeal and other galactagogues into my diet and was seeing a small improvement, but then a couple weeks ago it tanked yet again. E still seems to be nursing well, but my pump output has been abysmal. But then I got my period last week and have actually seen a significant increase again, so maybe the dip in supply was hormone-induced. I didn’t get my period until Theo was 9 months old, and by then he was eating solid food in addition to breastfeeding, so I didn’t notice an effect on my supply, though I’d heard that can happen. Hopefully that’s all it was! My weight loss has plateaued, and while I’m still under my pre-pregnancy starting weight, I’d love to take advantage of the extra calories nursing burns and drop about five more pounds. I haven’t been working out since E came home, and may need to start that up again. After being gone 10 hours a day for work, though, I feel guilty spending even more time away from the boys.

I’ll wrap this up with a few pictures from the last month. He just keeps getting cuter by the day.

 




5 months old

Time is flying. This will be the last monthly post I write while on maternity leave, as I return to work on Monday. I know it’s time to get back to the real world, but it’s going to be hard to leave my boys again, after getting used to spending every day with them. At least I won’t have to send them to daycare just yet, as D will be taking the next 4 weeks off to stay home with them.

Here’s what’s going on with Mr. E at five months…

Adjusted age: two months.

Stats: 10 lbs 13 oz and 21.5 inches long.

Milestones: Smiling and cooing! The best. He is such a happy little guy and quite talkative too. I’m really looking forward to those first laughs next.

Sleeping: Dare I say it? I think we may have gotten a good sleeper this time. Or at least compared to Theo. He wakes up one or two times per night, but lately it’s usually just one time. And he slept completely through the night twice! Of course, T was only up 2-3 times per night until he hit the four-month sleep regression, and then he was up practically hourly until he was about nine months old. So I don’t fully trust E’s sleep habits just yet. Naps are pretty inconsistent — sometimes he’ll sleep almost all day and just wake up to eat. Other days he barely sleeps at all. I had hoped to be on a little more of a schedule by the time I went back to work. I guess D will have to figure it out himself.

Eating: This continues to be the area where we struggle most, but has finally turned a corner and we’re doing more nursing than bottles. We’re down to about 3-4 bottles per day (3 oz each) and nursing the rest. Nursing is going better, most of the time, though there are some frustrating days where I can’t seem to get him composed or focused enough to stay latched. When we’re home alone we can usually work through it with a little patience, and I have the option to go make a bottle if he gets too frustrated. But when we’re out in public it’s harder to get him focused. He doesn’t always like the nursing cover, especially when he’s  frustrated, and his frequent unlatching and flailing make it impossible to nurse discreetly sans cover without flashing everyone around me. But if I give a bottle, I have to pump to make up that feed to keep my supply up — which is even more inconvenient in public. When I go back to work I’ll obviously need to pump while I’m away from him, but my ultimate goal is to only pump when we’re apart, and always nurse when we’re home together. I think we’re getting closer.

Personality: So sweet and happy. Even on his fussy days, “fussy” is about as escalated as he gets. He rarely even full-on cries. And now that he’s smiling and cooing, his happy personality is showing through even more.

Likes: Bath time! I’ve started putting the boys in the tub together (well, I put E’s baby tub in the big tub) and they both just love it. E kicks and talks to big brother, who loves to help me wash him. He also loves having his diaper changed. T was like that too. We called it his “reset button.” If he was fussy and we changed him he’d suddenly get so focused on what we were doing that soon he was smiling and talking and forgot why he was upset. So far E is the same.

Dislikes: Still reflux. We’ve got the head of his bed elevated, we keep him upright after feeds and he’s on Prevacid, but he’s still so grunty and arches his back in pain often. I’m really hoping he grows out of it soon.

Mama: Still shedding like crazy, though it seems like it may finally be slowing. I’m surprised I have any hair left. I’m chopping my hair tomorrow and am hoping that makes everything more manageable.

I’m feeling kind of sad about my maternity leave coming to an end, since this is the last time we’re doing this, and I wish I had done more with the time I had. I had visions of taking the boys on frequent outings, having dinner made every night, and doing all the things around the house I never have time for when I’m working. Instead, there were more days than I’d care to admit where I managed to squander my entire morning juggling the very different needs of an infant and a three year-old, and by the time I finally cleaned up the breakfast dishes and reheated my coffee for the eighth time, it was time to start lunch, followed by nap and then we were stuck at home until T woke up, and then it was time to start dinner. Entire days simultaneously dragged on and passed in the blink of an eye. Yesterday, my last day of maternity leave, I felt like I managed to do things “right” – I took the boys to the zoo, took Theo out to ice cream, and then nursed Emmett in the park while Theo played. It was a day full of the things I imaged maternity leave would be… of course, I skipped my shower and we missed Theo’s nap, so something had to give! But it truly was a great day, and I ended my leave on a high note. 

Onto month six…(!)

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T loves his brother so.

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Tummy time.

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Shots!!

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Lazy morning snuggles.

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Cousins!

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He loves his birdies.

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More snuggles.

Bath time!

Party at 3 a.m.!

Zoo day.


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