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…(!)

img_2879

img_2697

T loves his brother so.

img_2736

Tummy time.

img_2740

Shots!!

img_2756

Lazy morning snuggles.

img_2800

Cousins!

img_2833

He loves his birdies.

img_2845

More snuggles.

Bath time!

Party at 3 a.m.!

Zoo day.

Save

Save

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.


NICU day 98 – HOME.

I never thought this day would come, but we are home. After E’s weight loss last night, they decided to check his weight again this morning. With his good feed volumes, a loss just didn’t make a lot of sense. Whether he managed to gain between last night and this morning or last night’s weight was off, he somehow managed to be up 22 grams this morning. So around 6 a.m. we got the official word from the doctor: we were free to go.

D came home and then I took him to work and T to daycare, and then I came back home to clean and get a few other things wrapped up. I spent the afternoon at the hospital, talked to the nurses and doctors (there were many tears involved), took some pictures, signed some papers, and then I went to go pick up D from work, and T from daycare (after nap), so we could all go back to the hospital and take E home as a family. It was an incredibly emotional experience.

It’s funny, everyone says the NICU days feel long while you’re there, but after you leave they feel like a distant memory. I couldn’t have understood while we were in the thick of things, but we’ve only been home about six hours and already I’m starting to see how that could be true. In many ways it feels like a bad dream that I just finally woke up from.

I’m going to cut this post short because I need to get to bed. And unlike in the hospital, there will be no nurses to feed him when he wakes up in a few hours. Now the real fun begins…

A final quiet moment in the hospital.

Headed home as a family of four!

Waiting for Daddy to bring the car around.

First car ride!

Fun in the swing.

My boys.

 

NICU day 97

We’re still here. We got news this morning that they would like to keep us another day to make sure we are set up for success on the eating front. But we were told if things went well today we could go home tomorrow! E had good feed volumes today, and I spent all day frantically tying up loose ends with work. I got to the bottom of my inbox and conquered my to-do list, checking off what I could, delegating what I couldn’t, and creating a comprehensive hand-off sheet for the contractor we’re bringing in to fill in for me. I also spent all evening doing laundry, cleaning and getting the house ready. After feeling a little panicked yesterday, like I had too much left to do, I actually feel really prepared now.

And then D texted me from the hospital tonight and said E lost 22 grams at his weight check.

Eff. We won’t get the official word from the doctor until tomorrow morning, but I have a feeling they’re going to keep us another day.

Come on…

Milk drunk.

NICU day 96

There is a good possibility we are going home tomorrow. Emmett continued to average around 80 percent of his feed volume throughout the day, and even took 50 ml via breast this evening, which is better than he’s done at the breast in over a week. He did lose 4 grams tonight, though, so I’m not sure if that will prevent us from going home. The nurse tonight said they don’t count 4 grams as a loss and would label it no change, but she also didn’t seem to be aware of our potential discharge tomorrow, and she thought he was still on scheduled feedings. She also tried to get me to breastfeed when he was just calmly staring up at me and showing no hunger cues and had just eaten an hour before. I’ve never seen this nurse before and I must say I’m not impressed. She doesn’t seem like she knows what’s going on at all. Thankfully at this stage in the game, the nurses aren’t as critical anymore so I’ll just wait until I see the doctor or until the day nurse comes around 7 a.m. to figure out what’s next.

I will admit, I legitimately freaked out this evening after I got home from work, realizing that we could potentially have Emmett home this time tomorrow and I still haven’t installed the car seat base or even thought about a going home outfit for him yet. I also still feel like I have a million loose ends I need to wrap up at work and a ton of chores around the house I had hoped to finish before we bring him home. Amazing how I’ve had three months to prepare for this and it’s suddenly crept up and I have nothing finished. As much as I want him home, I would probably be okay if they wanted to hold us for just one more day!

IMG_2381

NICU day 95

Note: I was just notified by my mom via text message that I did not post this last night. Oops! Lots of good news below, and this morning we just got the even better news that if the next 24 hours go as well as the previous, we can go home! 

Here’s the rest of what I wrote last night.

***

It’s been more than 24 hours on the no feeding tube trial and we’re doing well. E ended the day around 85 percent of feed volume and managed to gain 44 grams tonight, so that’s a huge win. He’s now 7 lbs 13.5 oz. I haven’t nursed him since yesterday, as I was gone for several hours today and he was sleepy the times I was there, so he’s just been getting pumped milk from a bottle. I feel like a little bit of a failure that I can’t seem to give him those numbers when I’m nursing, but I’m still determined to keep working on this. I know preemie moms who have left the hospital on bottles and fought their way back to breastfeeding and went on to have a successful time nursing. So it can be done. The most important thing is that he is eating, and minus the feeding tube. If he keeps this up we could be home very soon.

NICU day 94

Well, we’re doing another trial off the feeding tube. We aren’t quite at 80 percent due to the nurse gavaging him twice overnight (though if you ask me, sometimes I think they just gavage him when he could possibly wake up and eat), but he’s had several full feeds in the last couple days and when he pulled his feeding tube out again today the doctor suggested we just not put it back and see what happens again. This time around, the doctor suggested that we just do one or two breastfeeding sessions per day and make sure he is really awake, and bottle feed the rest. She thinks the one or two breastfeeds per day will give him the practice he needs so he doesn’t lose the skill, while allowing him to conserve some of his energy since he doesn’t have to work as hard for a bottle. We can work on gradually increasing the number of nursing sessions per day at home, but as long as we can maintain volume, the doctor said she sees no reason we need to stay here any longer. The next 48 hours will be very telling; we’ll either go home or go back on the feeding tube.

I spent most of the day at the hospital today, and went home late afternoon, and then D and I went out to dinner and a movie (T is with grandparents for the night). Then I came back to the hospital for the night. When I got here, E was wide awake and happy and the nurse reported he had taken two full bottles while I was gone. He then nursed and got about half of his feed volume from me, which is better than average. Since we aren’t gavaging after nursing now, the hope is that he can self-regulate and wake up again if he gets hungry sooner, or possibly take a bigger feed next time. I really hope this works, though I’m trying to be realistic since we’ve been through this before.