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.






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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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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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4 months old

I had drafted the following post weeks ago – on his actual 4 month birthday- but never got around to finishing it until now. You could say life has been a little busy. 

I can’t even describe how good it feels to be writing this update from home. I know I keep saying this, but the NICU really does feel worlds away, and life at home is pretty normal for a newborn, if he were an actual newborn, that is. I go back and forth on how detailed I get on the “how old is he” questions when out in public. I’ve never been more aware of just how often this question gets asked! I’ve kind of fallen into a habit of quickly triaging the situation: what’s the likelihood I’ll see or interact with the person again? If slim, I just tell them his adjusted age. If I’m likely to see them again or we have friends in common, I say he’s four months old but was born three months early, so he’s more like a one month-old. Of course, this usually prompts a million questions. Some days I feel like a bit of a freak show with all the questions and shocked expressions. Other days I don’t mind telling the story. And some days I even feel downright proud. Why yes, he is a miracle! Yes, I am superwoman!

With that, here’s what our little miracle is up to at four months…

Adjusted age: One month.

Stats: 8 lbs 13 oz and 20 inches long.

Milestones: E lifts his head up and shows pretty good neck control for the most part — though he will occasionally slam his face into us or throw his head back while we’re holding him, usually when we least expect it. I’m terrified he’s going to backflip out of our arms.

Sleeping: He wakes pretty consistently every three hours to eat but has given us a few four-hour stretches. We’re still dealing with some reflux, which prevents him from falling back asleep sometimes, and for about a week there he was regularly awake and fussing between 3 and 6 a.m. Just in time for Theo to wake for the day. We have learned keeping him upright or inclined for a bit after eating helps some, so we’ve fallen into a routine where D will give him a bottle at night while I pump, and then since he usually finishes before I’m done, he’ll prop him up on a pillow in front of me while I finish pumping. By the time I’m done and have rinsed out all my parts, he’s usually sound asleep and his tummy has settled enough for us to put him down. During the day he mostly naps in his swing, which is inclined. We borrowed a Rock n Play from some friends, thinking he might like to sleep in that at night, but for some reason he hates it. He’s back on Prevacid, which seems to help some. 

Eating: We’re still struggling a bit here. After the pediatrician had us increase the number of fortified bottles from four to six, we were given permission to drop down to five after he had some better gains. So I’m getting to breastfeed two to three times per day and then pumping and bottle feeding for the rest. It’s pretty time consuming. He still isn’t a great nurser and with us having to give so many bottles doesn’t give us much opportunity to practice. I’ve seen a lactation consultant and have started attending a weekly breastfeeding group where I can weigh him before and after nursing so I can see how much he’s getting. He is slowly getting better. It’s really an uphill battle, though, and I’ve been tempted to throw in the towel on nursing on numerous occasions.

Personality: He is still very snuggly. He’s also starting to show a bit more of his spunky side. When he’s hungry, he doesn’t usually cry; he yells! He really sounds quite demanding. I’m looking forward to seeing his personality develop more as he gets older.

Likes: Snuggles with mom, the sound of big brother’s voice.

Dislikes: Reflux and gas. This baby is like a whoopie cushion with the impressive amount of gas he can produce. It’s not just a little toot; it just keeeeeps going. I swear he farts out twice his body volume. No wonder he gets so agitated.

Mama: I’m feeling pretty good, though I’m still shedding hair like crazy, which is really annoying. My hair is longer than it’s been in a while but it’s permanently in a top knot so I don’t have to deal with pulling hair off my clothes all day. Washing my hair is frightening and I’m always surprised I have anything left by the time I’m done. The weight is still falling off, thanks to breastfeeding. Other than that, I’m beyond tired, but not feeling too overwhelmed.

I’ll wrap this with a few photos from the past month and will feebly vow to be more timely with his five-month update. How do I almost have a five month-old?!


Squishy snuggles.


Brother helper.


So tired.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

Hello? Is this thing on?

We’ve been home now for about a week and a half and things are going well. I’ve had a lot of people tell me they miss the daily Emmett posts so I thought I’d give a quick update on how things are going. I definitely don’t plan to blog every day again — there just really isn’t enough to talk about — but I do hope to keep writing regularly to capture memories, much like I did before Emmett came along.

Unlike in the NICU where things were constantly changing, life back at home is moving much more slowly and we’re settling into a busy but blissfully mundane routine. Our days and nights are filled with normal newborn stuff: Getting stuck under a sleeping baby while watching entirely too much HGTV. Getting peed on in the middle of the night because we were too slow with getting a new diaper on in our groggy state (rookie mistake!). Bouncing, rocking, swaying, shushing while trying to figure out what the heck it takes to get McScreamy back to sleep at 3 a.m. In just over a week, Emmett has suddenly become less like a sick patient and more like a typical newborn and I feel like we’re getting to know him all over again outside the rigid hospital setting, where everything is strictly measured and timed. While we’re trying to maintain some semblance of the routine already set in place, we’re following his lead more and letting him sleep and eat according to his cues and our needs.

Feeding continues to be a challenge for us. He takes a bottle pretty well now, but he seems to be getting worse, not better, at breastfeeding. When we left the hospital, his latch was good, but he simply lacked the stamina to nurse effectively for every feed. We were instructed to give him four bottles of expressed breastmilk per day, each fortified with a scoop of Neosure powder for extra calories, and were given the all-clear to nurse at his other feedings. With him eating an average of eight times per day, it meant we were doing about 50/50 nursing and bottles. We’ve had two weight checks with the pediatrician since, and while he’s gaining, he isn’t gaining as rapidly as he should, so we were recently instructed to bump it up to six “protein shakes” per day, which only leaves about two feedings to practice breastfeeding. His stamina is better, but all the bottle feedings have spoiled his good latch and he gets frustrated easily at the breast. We’re going to see a lactation specialist this week to see how we can improve our nursing sessions so we can hopefully start doing more nursing and fewer bottles. Trying to bottle feed and then pump with almost every feeding is pretty time-consuming. Not to mention our neverending dishes thanks to all the bottle and pump parts. D has been taking most of the middle of the night feeds so I can pump while he gives a bottle and we can both get back to sleep as fast as possible.

Theo has been amazing. I know we’re less than two weeks in and that this is probably the honeymoon phase, but seeing Theo’s nurturing side come out is probably my favorite part of having two kids. He loves to kiss and hug baby Emmett, and has been so gentle. He is also very proud of “his baby” and loves to introduce him to everyone. I’m handling taking care of two kids better than I thought I would too. We pulled T from daycare while I’m home on maternity leave to minimize the germ exposure to E while he’s so small. And while I had visions of chaos — either neglecting a screaming baby while tending to a needy toddler, or ignoring my firstborn while an infant consumes all my energy and attention — so far things have been going pretty well. Theo is usually happy to entertain himself while I’m dealing with Emmett, and even likes to help by grabbing my water or my phone for me if I’m stuck nursing E on the couch. He’s gotten pretty good at fetching himself a snack and he knows how to operate Netflix on his own (not sure if that’s more of a brag or a confession!). On more than one occasion I’ve let him crawl in bed with me in the mornings where he’ll play quietly on the iPad while I catch a few more Zs after being up with the baby most of the night. I’m not winning any mother of the year awards but everyone is clean, fed and happy. I’ll call that a win. 

Overall things are going well. I’m insanely tired, but I’m happy. I touched on this on my last post, but it really is amazing how long ago the NICU feels already. With all the typical newborn stuff we’re immersed in, it’s almost easy to forget that he’s not in fact, a newborn. He’s a three month-old, who spent a quarter of his first year in the hospital. It feels like years ago, not weeks ago. And while I still haven’t figured out how to gracefully answer the “how old is he?” question while out in public, life just feels normal right now. And that’s a pretty big deal.