NICU day 76

Today was a good day. As I’ve mentioned before, we’ve done two trials off oxygen before, and both times he made it about 12 hours before he got tired and needed it back. I’m happy to report we passed the 12-hour mark. And then the 24-hour mark. And then they removed his tank altogether from his room because it was clear he was rocking it on his own. Yeah!

Feeds were kind of hit and miss today. I nursed him at every feed except the 2:30 a.m. feed, during which I slept and the nurse gave him a bottle. He’s averaging about 60 percent of his feeds by mouth currently. One was as high as 84 percent and one was as low as 24 percent. So we’ve still got some work to do to get to the required 80 percent over 48 hours. He seems to prefer breast over bottle, which as the nurse pointed out, is a nice problem to have. He will take both, though, which has been the goal all along.

We’ve been talking to Theo a lot about E coming home, now that we’re getting closer. I know there will be an adjustment period while he learns how to share us (or maybe we’ve already begun that since D and I have been splitting our time?), but so far he is really excited. His daycare teachers say he’s been talking a lot about “his” baby too. He’s been asking for a few days to go see baby Emmett so I picked him up after school today and brought him back to the hospital. I nursed E while T sat and played a game on the iPad. Aside from the fact we were in a hospital room, it felt really normal, and I got a glimpse of what it might be like on a random afternoon at home with my boys.

This evening they moved us to the pediatric wing, which we have been told is a springboard for going home. The room is nicer and bigger, and is meant for rooming in (we get an actual bed instead of a daybed/cot), as they like parents doing more and nurses less as we get closer to discharge.

He lost half an ounce at his weigh-in tonight, which is a bummer, but not surprising. Over the past two days he’s gone from having most of his food delivered straight to his belly to having to work for every meal. Hoping he keeps getting stronger and more efficient at eating, so we can finally go HOME. Tomorrow we’ll have been here 11 weeks.

Theo helping the nurse move little brother down the hall

NICU day 38

Today was another emotional day. After taking T swimming this morning, I headed back to the hospital after lunch and found out they had lowered E’s oxygen flow to 3 liters — after discussing with D just last night that they were going to keep it at 4 for another couple days. The nurse said he’d been doing really well on it, so I didn’t push the issue. I was a little annoyed at the lack of communication and continuity between the night team and the day team, but if E was handling it fine, I guess I was fine with it too.

I hadn’t even been there more than 20 minutes when he had his first brady. I chalked it up to a random episode (he’s allowed to have those), or maybe an adjustment to the lower flow — but then he had another shortly afterward. I was beginning to get concerned, but tried to brush it off. Then when I was holding him, he had about five of them in a 45 minute span. I couldn’t hold back my tears – I felt like he was crashing on me – and the nurse came in and took him from me to put him back in his isolette. It was all very emotional. She suctioned his nose, hoping maybe he just had a booger (that caused some issues for us once before), but his nose was clear. Then she noticed his feeding tube had come partway out. She said that can sometimes cause a vagal nerve response, which was a likely culprit of our episodes. She pulled the tube out and reinserted (not fun to watch), and he seems mostly good since then. She also turned his oxygen back up to 4 and said we’d try again later. This time I spoke up and advocated that we give him at least another day and let him rest. He’s had a few additional bradys since the tube was repositioned, but the nurse said he may have just been worn out from the day’s events. Really hoping that’s the case, and the culprit was just his NG tube earlier. Who knew a rogue feeding tube could cause so much drama?

As much as I hated to leave him, I’ve been feeling incredibly guilty about all the time I’ve been spending away from T lately, so I went home to have dinner with the family. Since the nurse and I had agreed we’d try holding again after his 8:30 p.m. cares, I had to rush back to the hospital shortly after dinner. T didn’t take it very well and refused to even give me a hug goodbye. After the day I’d already had, this shattered my heart into a million pieces. I asked if he was mad at me because I had to go to the hospital again and he said yes. I hugged him (even if he wouldn’t hug me back) and left the house in tears. When I got to the hospital I saw a text from D telling me Theo was crying because he wanted to give me a hug. So we Facetimed for a few minutes and he was his sweet self again. I even held the phone up to E’s isolette so T could say good night to his brother. It was all very sweet and I’m glad it ended well, but the mom guilt is on overdrive these days. I feel a strong need to be with both of my boys all the time and I simply can’t.

This evening went better than the afternoon. I got to hold him for three hours and he did pretty well, though he still had a few events. He put on an impressive 87 grams tonight, which equals about 3 oz. in just one day! He’s now 3 lbs. 8 oz.

I really hope these last few trying days mean we’re about to move forward again. I’ve referred numerous times to the “two steps forward, one step back” mantra in the NICU. And the nurse tonight gave me another analogy: she said progress in the NICU is rarely linear. It’s more like loop-de-loops — you’re still going forward, but you’re looping backward on yourself in order to do so.

Hopefully Emmett doesn’t pull his NG tube out again — though this video was taken not even five minutes after it was reinserted, and I’m starting to think it may be hard to get him to leave it alone!

T-man update.

Poor Theo. Usually it’s the second child that gets the shaft, but then E came along and stole all his big brother’s thunder. I hadn’t even gotten thank you cards out for T’s birthday party (and still haven’t!) when E came barrelling into this world three months ahead of schedule. So I thought I’d show my firstborn some love and dedicate this post to him. Because he is kind of amazing.

First, his birthday was a wild success! Since he was originally due on Cinco de Mayo (but was four days late), we’ve made it a tradition to throw a Cinco de Mayo bash for his birthday each year. Though I think this was probably our last year before he forms some serious opinions on the matter and insists on a Transformers-themed party or something. Despite our best intentions of culling the guest list to only friends with kids and making it a smaller affair, we ended up with nearly 60 people, including about 25 kids! Thank goodness we had great weather and could spend most of the time in our large backyard instead of our modest-sized house. We had a bouncy house and a pinata for the kids, and plenty of beer and margaritas for the adults. It was a lot of fun. Like the previous two years, we had a separate, more intimate party for family. Theo had a blast at both parties, though after two parties at home plus one at his school, he actually told me “no more parties.” Kid was partied out.

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Party animals.

On the potty training front, Theo has been out of diapers since January, but still isn’t super reliable about getting to the bathroom on his own. He has to be reminded a lot because he gets too busy and doesn’t want to stop what he’s doing. Mister has a serious case of FOMO (fear of missing out). We also still have him in pull-ups at night because he sleeps so hard. Funny how this is the same kid who didn’t sleep through the night until he was about nine months old, and when I say “didn’t sleep through the night” I’m talking waking up every hour and a half to two hours. How did we function? At the time it felt like it would never end, and now it feels like a lifetime ago. (I try to remind myself of this when it feels like we’ll be in the NICU forever.)

We’re in the process of putting together his big boy room and he’s now spent two nights in his new room. So far things are going well, and he’s so excited about his big boy bed that he actually goes to bed easier than he did when he was in the crib! It’s fun to snuggle in bed together and read before bedtime and wake him up by crawling in bed with him. I still need to move his clothes and toys over, and I have a bookshelf I need to paint and put in there, but the walls and ceiling are painted, curtains are hung, and he’s got a bed and a few wall decorations so far (I’m doing a travel/transportation theme). The plan is to put Emmett in the nursery once he comes home since it’s already set up for a baby, and then once E is sleeping more reliably we’ll move him in with T and make what’s currently the nursery into the new guest room. For now guests will have to sleep in the loft/office/playroom.

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He looks so little in his big bed!

We’ve had a little bit of a rough spell as far as attitude and tantrums go — I’m not sure how much of that is typical threenager behavior versus him having a hard time adjusting to the changes. As much as D and I try to maintain a sense of normalcy (still sending T to daycare during the week and making sure we’re all home together each night for dinner), I’m sure he’s aware of just how different things are and he can probably sense some of our stress. He actually bit a kid at daycare a couple weeks ago, and he’s never been the least bit aggressive to other kids. Usually we’re getting incident reports because he’s been bitten, not because he’s the biter!

But, when he’s not throwing an epic tantrum, he’s really a great kid. I can’t believe how much he’s blossomed over the last year and especially in the last few months. His language has absolutely exploded and he never stops talking now. I can’t believe I was actually worried about him not talking enough at one point. Just goes to show that kids usually catch up and do things on their own timeline. He is (usually) polite and says please and thank you. In fact, he usually says “please” twice in a sentence (e.g., “please can I have some milk please?”). It’s adorable. He’s really into dinosaurs, Transformers, super heroes and still has to sleep with “Blue” every night (his blue dog blanket lovey). We temporarily lost Blue for two days in the room transition and T was pretty sad about that.

Eating has been a battle of wills. I’m told he eats well at school and at other people’s houses, but at home it’s become a game for him. He stalls, plays with his food, claims he doesn’t like something he usually likes, picks at his food, and then usually eventually eats it, but it takes FOR-E-VER.

Other things: he loves to be chased and tickled and will scream for us to stop and once we do, begs us to chase or tickle him again. He has an infectious laugh and a great smile, but when you ask him to smile on command, this is what he gives you:

"Smile!"

“Smile!”

 

Here's a more natural smile - riding the Great Wheel with his cousin Molly.

Here’s a more natural smile – riding the Great Wheel with his cousin Molly.

Overall, I’m really enjoying this stage. Despite the occasional meltdown, he is just such a joy to be around. He talks often about baby Emmett and I am looking forward to having a house full of boys in just a couple more months. I think Theo and his little brother will become best buds, and Emmett certainly has a pretty great brother to look up to.

Mother of sons.

Today is Mother’s Day. T is napping, D is cleaning up after part one of our two-part birthday party for T yesterday (more on that in another post!), and I’m sitting on the couch, feeling baby kick. It’s hard to believe I’m about to be a mom of two boys. I think often about what it will be like — with two kids, and both of them boys! Will life be twice as crazy as it is now? Will baby #2 be like a mini-T or will they be polar opposites? I’m excited to find out.

Interestingly, I’ve found myself almost defending our excitement when I tell people we’re having a second boy. I’ll be honest, I’ve never really understood the concept of “gender disappointment.” Maybe it’s because we’ve had such a rocky road building our family that I take nothing for granted. Maybe it’s the practical side of me that knows any time you have a baby, you’ve got a 50/50 shot at either sex. But I’ve been amazed at the way many people act almost sympathetic when I tell them we’re having another boy. The receptionist at T’s haircut place actually said to me the other day “Oh. Well I hope you’re still excited.” Huh? Of course I’m still excited.

Sure, when we found out we were having another boy there was a small part of me that briefly acknowledged the finality of the fact that I’ll never have a daughter. We are D-O-N-E after this. But any sense that I might be missing out by not having a girl was immediately overshadowed by the joy in finding out we are having another boy! There’s just something about finding out the sex of your baby that makes everything feel infinitely more real. You begin picturing what they might look like. You start thinking seriously about names. You feel one step closer to actually “knowing” your baby. And let’s face it, if T is any indication, we make pretty awesome boys.

But inevitably, the first question people ask is, “will you try again for a girl?” Try again? Like we got it wrong this time? First of all, we would have just as much of a chance of having a third boy — maybe even higher, according to some theories. And I’ve always only wanted two kids. But let’s say we did try again. How would our second boy feel if he found out the only reason he was the middle child was because he didn’t have a vagina? That his parents felt the need to try again because he wasn’t quite what they wanted? I’m being dramatic. I know parents don’t tell their children they wish they had been born the opposite sex (at least I hope not!), but when did everyone determine “one of each” was the ultimate goal?

Truthfully, I’m looking forward to being a mom of two boys. From a practical standpoint, we already have the clothes, gear, toys. And our boys can share a room, which makes things easier from a space perspective. But more importantly, I can’t wait to see how they are with each other. While they aren’t as close in age as we would have preferred, they’ll still be close enough to play together, and will probably have an unbreakable bond. I know our younger son will look up to Theo in a way only a little brother can.

I also must say, that while I don’t know any different, being a boy mom is pretty special. Boys tend to love their moms fiercely. Theo blazes through life a million miles a minute, but always takes the time to give me a hug or kiss, or to tell me he loves me. And while it’s exhausting being the one he usually calls to first, there’s something sweet about how he wants me to comfort him in the night when he’s scared, and asks for me first thing in the morning when he wakes up. He loves his dad too, and I don’t mean to downplay their bond, but their bond is just different. Talking to other boy moms, I think this is a pretty common dynamic between boys and moms.

And, let’s face it, I’d be lying if I didn’t mention the fact that I’m happy to bypass the teenage girl drama. I know I’m grossly overgeneralizing, but I was a dramatic and emotional teenager and karma would surely come back to bite me if I’d had a girl. I’ll settle for being my three nieces’ favorite aunt and will leave the hard stuff to their parents!

On a more serious note, I’m both looking forward to, and overwhelmed with the responsibility of raising these boys to be good men. They say you can tell a lot about a man’s potential as a husband by the way he treats his mother, and I’m honored that I get to play such a huge role in preparing them for their future wives (if they choose to go that route). And some day I hope to be the type of mother-in-law who will love my daughters-in-law as my own children. I have had the bar set high by two pretty great mothers-in-law, myself.

Yes, I’m feeling blessed to be a mom of two boys.