Has it really been two and a half years since I’ve posted anything to this blog? I purchased the domain for this site several years ago, I when I was writing regularly. It’s a small yearly fee and it makes the URL easier to remember and share. My domain comes up for renewal every October, and for the last two years it’s been an unpleasant reminder that I’ve neglected something that was once a big part of me. Writing has always been my coping mechanism for life’s Big Things. And I think we can all agree this last year especially has been full of Big Things.
So much has happened over the past year, and at many points I’ve wished I’d thought to document how it’s affected our family. Parenting a preemie in a pandemic has meant we’ve had to lock down tighter than most of our friends and family. In many ways, the emotional isolation has been harder than the physical isolation, as few people understand our level of caution. But having seen Emmett ravaged by RSV and even common colds, we know too well how illnesses go straight to his lungs. And unless you’ve experienced the trauma of seeing your child on a ventilator, it’s hard to explain how you just don’t take chances with something that could put him back on one. His pulmonologist warned us that while most kids who contract Covid have mild cases or are even asymptomatic, Emmett would likely not be one of them. She urged us to take extra precautions, and as a result, our quarantine has lasted well beyond when our friends and family widened their bubbles and much of the country declared they weren’t going to let this virus run their lives. Unfortunately for us, the more everyone else relaxed their restrictions, the more dangerous the world around us became for Emmett, and the deeper we were forced to retreat to keep him safe.
I feel hope now that vaccines are rolling out, though we’re likely at least several months out from a pediatric vaccine. Dave and I have been vaccinated, as have our parents and many of our friends, so for the first time in a year we’ve been able to get out a little more and socialize with vaccinated people at least!
The optimism I’ve felt these last few months has lifted a weight from my shoulders and I’ve been able to turn my attention to a project I started a couple years ago: I’m writing a book!
Wow, my hands just got all clammy. Every time I share this out loud to anyone, feelings of imposter syndrome wash over me and self-doubt creeps in. Writing a book has always been on my bucket list. I always figured I’d write a novel in my retirement or something, but then life dropped a little 1 lb. 14 oz. trauma into my lap nearly five years ago, and after several people urged me to write a book about our experience, and seeing just how much this blog has helped other preemie parents cope, I’m finally doing it. I started it two years ago, and then stalled out last year because I just couldn’t stomach revisiting a traumatic point in my life while I was stressed with a new traumatic event. I finally picked it up again earlier this year, with more determination than ever.
It’s been a lot of work, turning the daily stream-of-consciousness I’d hammered out each night after much stress and little sleep into a work of prose someone might actually pay money to read. But I’m finally “done” writing the book. I use “done” in quotation marks because I’m always finding something new to revise, and will likely go through a few editing rounds before all is said and done. I’ve decided to try the traditional publishing route first with self-publishing as a backup plan, knowing how competitive the publishing game is, and that securing a memoir, in particular, can be next to impossible unless you’re a celebrity.
There’s an old French proverb: vouloir, c’est pouvoir — “to want, is to be able.” If there’s one thing Emmett has taught me, it’s that even when the odds are stacked against you, there’s a way.
As I mentioned in my previous post, in addition to throwing a birthday party for Theo and Emmett a few weeks ago, I also decided to take Emmett back to the NICU on his actual birthday for the first time to visit. The days and weeks leading up to his birthday were very emotional for me, as I mentally relived everything we had been through, continued to question myself for not picking up on signs that something was off sooner, and also just marveled at how far he’s come. It’s so cliche, but time really does go by so fast, and it seems impossible that it’s been two years since he came into our lives.
It felt like being on autopilot as I pulled into the familar parking garage, walked through the hospital lobby, down the long hall past the maternity ward, up the elevators to the fourth floor, and buzzed through security into the NICU. Only this time instead of lugging a breastpump or an overnight bag, I was holding a 23 lb toddler and a box of donuts for the doctors and nurses. Surreal doesn’t even begin to describe the experience.
I was able to visit with six different nurses who had cared for us during this time, as well as Dr. L, who had initially been one of my least favorite doctors but eventually became one of my favorites. He has a very frank demeanor that can come off a little cold at first, but you eventually learn what a big heart he has. I have no doubt he’s seen his share of heartbreaking situations, and I can only imagine there are just certain things you have to do to compartmentalize such an emotional profession. Dr. L was the neonatologist who had prepared us for the fact Emmett could need a g-tube — and then the next day E finally started eating. I made sure to tell Dr. L what a good eater Emmett is now! I shed some tears talking to everyone and it felt like visiting with old friends or family. Emmett clung to me the whole time, as he usually does in unfamiliar situations, but one of the nurses coaxed a high five out of him before we left.
A few days later, I went in for my first volunteer shift in the NICU. You may recall, this process has been almost a year in the making, but I finally got all the paperwork, vaccinations and hospital clearance I needed to start. To be honest, I’m kind of glad I got to do E’s birthday visit first, because that visit was just for us, whereas my focus was on the current NICU families when I was there volunteering. It was still surreal to see our old room, hear the familar beeps and alarms, scrub in at the wash station and smell the hospital soap, but I wasn’t as affected by the visit as I thought I’d be. At least I didn’t feel like it at the time, though I didn’t sleep well that night and had dreams about the NICU all night. Nothing bad; just those those fitful tedious dreams where you feel like you’re stuck in a loop. I go back again for another shift in a couple weeks and it will be interesting to see whether I become more desensitized as time goes on.
I’ll wrap this up with a repost of what I had written on Facebook and Instagram on Emmett’s birthday, along with the photo I shared from our NICU visit:
Today, Emmett is two. And today I struggle to balance polar emotions: overwhelming love and pride for our little fighter, mixed with crippling guilt and trauma. May 18 is the day he was born, but it’s also the day we nearly lost him.
I’ve never been one to hold onto any romanticized ideas around pregnancy or “the perfect birth” (let’s face it, childbirth is messy, undignified and hurts like hell). Yet today I’m still mourning the fact that we missed the entire third trimester, and I was cheated out of that beautiful moment the doctor places your newborn baby on you. Instead, my baby was immediately whisked away to be resuscitated and wasn’t even stable enough to be held for five days.
Today, for the first time since Emmett was discharged, we returned to the NICU — the most beautiful and horrible place I’ve ever been. A place we were imprisoned for more than three months, but where I fell in love with my baby and he grew and thrived in the care of angels on earth. It was both surreal and healing to go back and proudly show off what a beautiful, vibrant little boy Emmett is today.
Happy birthday to our miracle baby. For all you’ve put us through, our lives are so blessed because of you.
I’ve been incredibly neglectful of this poor blog. I really do miss writing and I often think I should make a point to write more, athough I’m sure I’ve lost all the readers I once had. Even though life was crazy while E was in the NICU, I spent so much time just sitting in the hospital not being able to do anything, so writing was a great emotional outlet. Now life is a whole new kind of crazy, and self-care tends to take a back seat.
In one week, Emmett will be two, and much like last year, I’m increasingly more anxious and weepy as the anniversary of his birth draws nearer. Compounding my anxiety around his birthday, E has also had a tough year, medically. Some days it feels like prematurity is just … haunting us. He is such an amazing little boy, and I’m so aware of how much worse things could be, but every new diagnosis, every new specialist referral, every new modification we have to make to our lives … I’m just drowning. Most of all, I just want him to be normal and healthy, and it always feels like normalcy is right beyond our reach. I live in fear over what’s next.
In the past year, E has had three surgeries (ear tubes, adenoids and tonsil removal), and we’re facing the possibility of another surgery this year on his throat to correct his aspiration. We had another swallow study a few months ago and learned he’s aspirating thin liquids, so we have to thicken everything he drinks (even water) with these special gel packets. Because of his aspiration and ongoing breathing issues, we were referred to the aerodigestive program at Seattle Children’s (coordinated pulmonary, otolaryngology, nutrition and OT/PT care), and we have our first appointment next month. While it sucks to know his issues are severe enough to qualify us for this program, I’m actually looking forward to the idea of coordinated care, versus all the individual specialist appointments we’ve been having. We had a repeat sleep study a couple months ago and learned the sleep apnea he was diagnosed with last fall was mostly corrected with his tonsillectomy, though we may be facing a third sleep study because he still has mild apnea (it was mild enough they didn’t recommend any treatment, though). What else… we just found out a few weeks ago he needs leg braces, and he’s also allergic to peanuts. That last one probably has nothing to do with prematurity, but it’s just. One. More. Thing. We now carry an epi pen wherever we go.
I have been a part of a preemie parent support group since Emmett was born, and I’ve been going to more meetings lately in an effort to better cope with everything. One of the group leaders brought up an interesting point at our last meeting that I try to remember on days I’m feeling down about our situation. She said as preemie parents it’s easy to think, if only he’d been born full term, everything would be fine. But we can’t assume that’s the case. I don’t know why I went into labor early, but maybe there’s a reason my body kicked him out, and things could have been catastrophic if he’d stayed in any longer. Full-term babies can face complications too, and losing a baby later in pregnancy or in childbirth would certainly be worse than what we’ve endured. It’s kind of a morbid way of thinking, but the point is, you can’t assume things would have been better had they gone differently. There are just too many unknowns.
Speaking of NICU support, I finally completed all my vaccinations and volunteer paperwork, had my hospital orientation this week and will get to start volunteering in the NICU on the parent advisory board in a few weeks! I have so many mixed emotions about going back and I know it will be hard at times, but I’m mostly looking forward to being able to help other parents the way this group helped me.
Last weekend we participated in the March of Dimes’ March for Babies event and it really reinforced just how important the preemie community has become to me. Two years ago I had no idea this community existed, but now it’s such a huge part of who I am. We met up with a family who had been across the hall from us during most of our NICU stay, I caught up with a girl from my sorority I hadn’t seen since college whose 23-weeker is still fighting in the NICU (stay strong, Daisy!), and I filled out a couple butterflies for my friend who lost her twin boys last fall. The whole event was just really inspiring, emotinal and fulfilling to participate in. With that, I’ll leave you with a few photos from the event.
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.
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
1 weight check
1 swallow study
1 public health
5 Synagis shots
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.
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.
We’re less than two weeks away from Emmett’s first birthday, and every day brings a growing feeling of dread. Logically, it doesn’t make any sense. He’s doing really well, all things considered, and it’s not like anything bad is going to happen on his first birthday or anything. It should be a happy day. But I suppose this is just part of the PTSD experience — and from what I gather from other preemie moms — normal, even.
I have this app on my phone called Timehop. Most of the time I love it. It shows you pictures you took or things you posted to social media this time last year and every year it has access to. It’s been fun to revisit baby photos of Theo or to see some of the ridiculous thoughts that occupied my mind eight years ago that I somehow thought all of Facebook needed to know. But you know what’s been popping up lately from this time last year? Pregnancy photos. Casual, breezy selfies I snapped in the bathroom at work, or in front of the mirror in our bedroom. And while I rarely take selfies normally, I’ve always felt an uncharacteristic sense of body confidence while pregnant, and found myself admiring and snapping photos of my growing bump quite often.
And so it’s weird to juxtapose last year’s carefree photos with my current state of anxiety. It’s haunting to see these photos now, knowing what was about to happen. I had no idea my world was about to come crashing down while exploding with love, all at the same time. Oblivious that I was about to embark on the hardest year of my life. Unaware I would soon come to think of a hospital room as home and that I would create familial bonds with the caregivers who held my son’s life in their hands.
I also find myself reopening Pandora’s Box with the whys. We were told my preterm labor was unexplained, and that we’d probably never know why it happened. For the first couple weeks, that bothered me a lot. And then we got preoccupied with other life or death matters (literally) and I was able to push the questions out of my mind. But I find myself asking why a lot more again these days. Was it the fertility treatments? Did all the medications I took to prevent me from miscarrying again trigger something else that caused labor? Was there some connection medically between the losses and the preterm labor? My OB says no, but that seems hard to believe. Did I work out too much or too hard? I was really into barre while pregnant and took pride in the strength and flexibility I was capable of, even as I got bigger and my center of gravity shifted. Did I overdo it hosting Theo’s birthday? I remember my back hurt really badly that evening, and that was just a week before Emmett was born. Was it the pedicure I got just three days before Emmett arrived? I’ve heard there are acupressure points on your foot that are supposed to induce labor and that sometimes women who are overdue will get a pedicure or foot massage in hopes of kick starting labor. Could any of these things have triggered it? And the reciprocal question that haunts me: is there anything I could have done to prevent it?
So many questions that I’ll probably never have the answers to.
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?
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.
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.