Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Dear Tatum

Dear Tatum,

Today is your birthday. You are one whole year old. I can't believe it. Time seems to have flown by, so much faster than it did with your brother.

You've been through so much in this first year of life, it doesn't quite seem fair. To be honest I'm glad that you won't remember this first year, I'll remember for the both of us. I've learned so much by being your mommy, and I have a feeling there is so much more to learn from you.

Your start in life was a rough one, but I know that you are stronger because of it. You have a fighting spirit and a spunk that amazes me. You have overcome, and yet still maintained your sweet nature. That is a lesson I have yet to learn. There is something about leaving the hospital without your baby that changes you, and I'm not sure that it changed me for the better, yet. But you, my sweetheart, you are strong. You are a fighter. I pray that you keep that with you your entire life. There will be plenty of times that you will need it.

You are so loved. You have so many around you that love you, and care about you. You were lucky enough to have 5 cousins born within 5 months of you. Cherish that. Your brother adores you. I see the two of you and it makes me smile. You are his shadow, and he doesn't seem to mind one bit (usually). He is definitely protective of his little sister.

You are making incredible progress these days. You are getting much better about taking your inhalers. Most days you don't even cry. You are gaining weight and doing wonderfully when it comes to your physical milestones. You are just starting to walk. I think your personal record is about 10 steps. You are getting into everything. At least once a day I have to put all of the movies from the bottom two shelves back where they belong. When I tell you "no", you just look at me, shake your head, and give me that smile that I'm afraid will get you out of just about anything. You are a serious climber. Your favorite place to climb is into your brother's bed.

You are the sweet spot in our family. You bring a joy to our hearts that I could never adequately describe.
We love you, sweetheart.
Happy birthday, little one.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Be Brave, Be Safe

I try my hardest not to be THAT mom.
THAT mom helicoptering over her child at the park.
I'm getting much better at it. When William was younger, he wanted to climb on everything. Every time we were at the park, my anxiety would shoot through the roof. In my mind I saw every way that he would get hurt. 
These days there are times where I will even sit back on the benches. (They MUST be there for something, right?)

Since the day that boy was born, no far before that, I've thought about how to raise him. How to not screw him up is probably more accurate. I have had plenty of opportunities to do so in his short three years. 

One of those moments happened this morning.

Will likes to help me put the dishes away from the dishwasher. His favorite part is sorting the utensils. 
He was getting in his little fork-sorting groove when he picks up a steak knife. He knows that these are sharp, and he is usually not allowed to touch them. 
He instantly realizes what's wrong and looks at me with that panicked, "help mom" look, that a child perfects. 

Now you should know that William is an incredibly sensitive little boy. He picks up on others' feelings, and will take everything personally. So when he looks at me, scared, and worried he's doing something wrong, I know this was a delicate moment. 

"Mommy, I got a sharp knife!"

"Yes, you do"

"What do I do?"

"You need to be brave, and you need to be careful."

So he hands me the knife, carefully, by the handle, with confidence.

I sat there for a little bit, and I knew that this was one of those lessons I want him to learn, one that I hope he has many chances to learn. 

So William, (and Tatum) if you ever get a chance to read this, I want you to know:

Be careful. Think things through. Make good decisions. 

Be brave.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Bad Mom Blues

It's time to admit it. I have not been the best mom.

It all came to a head today, during nap time... go figure.

William wanted to sleep in our bed, I told him that was fine. Then he wanted Mommy to come snuggle him. We have all been a little under the weather recently, and a nap sounded nice, so I whole-heartedly agreed to a nap. Well, I fell asleep just fine. William was beyond restless. He was all over the bed, poking me, playing with my hair, and his noise was causing Tatum to stir. It was getting on my nerves, and I hit that point. I snapped at Will with a "if you're not going to sleep then go to your own bed."
He just slowly slid off the bed and headed out the door.

A few minutes later He was yelling that he needed to go to the bathroom, so I rolled my eyes and rolled out of bed. While he was sitting on the toilet, me on the side of the tub, he was kind of messing around, like he does when he avoids going #2. He looks at me, with that look that only a two year old can give you when they know you're at the end of your rope. That look that goes right to your soul. I swear at that moment it was like in the movies, that special effect where time stops and the camera quickly zooms into the eye and then their is a flash of light and there are a hundred tiny flashbacks. I thought back on those times I've been short with him. I thought of all those times he has tried to get my attention and I had to brush him off because I was doing something else, usually helping Tatum.

I'd recently shared with a friend how Will was the "perfect" little boy; quiet and sweet, loving, and snuggly. Recently he's been that "typical" two year old boy; rambunctious and rowdy, loud, and has gotten very physical. He is still very lovey, but he holds on so tight, it makes you wonder. I was telling her this behavior kicked in a few months after he turned two. She says "So right around when Tatum was born?" I'm sure it showed on my face, but I know for sure I said "oh... duh!" in my head... maybe even out loud...

I looked into that boy's big brown eyes, and I just smiled at him. And what do you know, he smiled back and gave me a huge hug. And with that hug came waves of guilt. Guilt for every time I left Will under-stimulated and frustrated, and then got frustrated at him for it. So much has been going on since Tatum was born. Most days it's just me and the kids and I'm afraid Will has probably been feeling the brunt of my frustration. And he is one of the most sensitive boys I know, I know he feels it.

So I made myself a silent promise to set aside more time for Will. So today, it was small, but I set Tatum in her exersaucer and let her play, while we made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich together. He was glowing, even with that little bit of Mommy-time.

So here is my resolve, for all of you to see, to devote more one-on-one time with my little boy.
I love him more than I can express with words. He is my pride and joy.

I hope he knows that.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Tatum's Arrival!

 If you want to know what real love looks like... it looks like this.

 This was during the uncontrollable shaking. 

 If you are wondering if labor hurts... yes, yes it does!

 He is my hero.

 She came so fast! I swear the next one is just going to fall out!


 There is nothing like that moment when they put your baby on your chest. So many emotions and thoughts. It is so incredible, the moment you meet this little human you created. 

 Billy got to cut the cord, although I don't think I even noticed, I was so smitten.

 Getting checked out. She scored 8 and 9 on her APGARs which is crazy to think with everything that happened.

 We wanted to be back snuggling together again!

 This is probably my favorite picture of the whole thing! It's like he realized just how much trouble he was really in for! ;)

 It's amazing how instantly settled in with each other you become. It's like she's always been a part of our family.

 So exhausted but so happy. This was probably a little after 2 am..

 His world was about to turn upside-down

 This was just a few minutes after everyone left after I hemorrhaged.. can you tell? I was so out of it!

 It was so good to see him!

 Meeting his baby sister for the first time!

 Aunt Sam

A family of four! 
(please excuse the puffy face! That's what pre-eclampsia + IV fluids will get ya!)

Monday, May 5, 2014

NICU (feelings)

 I hated every single one of the 11 days that Tatum was in the NICU.
I felt guilty whether I was at home or at the hospital. I know William needed my attention, as did Tatum. People would either say "She won't be able to tell when you're not there, she's being taken care of." or "Tatum needs you, William won't remember any of this." depending on what they thought I needed to hear that day.

It was hard not to feel guilty. I felt like it was my fault that she was where she was. If I'd taken it a little easier then my blood pressure and protein levels wouldn't have been so high, and I wouldn't have been induced and her lungs would have been healthier. i still don't think I've gotten over the guilt.

I did learn some incredible lessons while we were there. There are some incredibly selfless people in our lives, who are willing to take care of us in more ways than one. We had people bringing us food, taking care of William, offering hugs and words of comfort, we had so many people praying for our little girl. I feel like we will never be able to repay the kindness that has been shown to our family. So many hugs, and even at times literally holding us up when it was hard to stay standing

The nurses in the NICU became some of my favorite people. not only because they were taking care of MY baby, but because of the nature of their job and they were always looking out for us. We had nurses pushing so hard to get our baby home. There were times that the nurses would just sit and talk to me during the afternoon. Nurses that weren't even assigned to her that day would come and check on her and see how she was doing. Of course everyone commented on her hair.

 It was hard to be in there at times, knowing that she'd be coming home soon. The NICU was divided into 4 pods, and Tatum was in the A pod, which means that she was in with the babies who were in the least trouble, if that makes any sense. She was almost twice the size of her little roommate, I felt a little guilty knowing that we weren't as bad off as some of the babies in there. I would here the "code blue" alarm or hear that life flight was "in Pod D and ready for transport." and my heart would sink and I'd feel like crying.

 Sometimes I felt like our experience wasn't legit because out baby wasn't in a dramatic life or death kind of situation. Obviously she was in some danger or she wouldn't have been in there, but it seemed, at times, i wasn't entitled to some of the feelings I felt. She improved so quickly, and we were in there for ONLY 11 days, and other than her lungs she was an incredibly healthy baby. So why was I feeling so devastated?? I just had to tell myself that this was the hardest thing I, personally, had ever been through. And while I know that there are others who have been in, or were going through much harder things, this was a challenge for MY little family, and for MY heart. 

I learned to love some things about the NICU. I love the smell. It doesn't smell like hospital in there, it smells like baby... or maybe my brain just associates that smell with my baby now... either way, I always loved the smell when the door would open. I loved the NICU naps. Every afternoon, after I would feed Tatum, she and I would snuggle up on the chair and take a nice long nap together. I loved getting to do her cares, it was one of the very few times that we were there that I actually felt like I was taking care of my baby. It was not easy taking a backseat to the nurses, so when I got to changer her diaper, and take her temperature, I felt like I was actually being a mom to her.

I had a hard time with other people touching her. Even her nurses sometimes! Those first few days it just felt like anyone other than Billy was just getting between me and my baby and my inner momma bear did not like it. Even in the moment I would tell myself just how irrational I was being. I knew that she needed all the love she could get, but I felt so protective of her and didn't want her to be overexposed of taken advantage of. I know that wasn't happening, but in my irrational, overly hormonal mind, I didn't want other people touching her.

I went back on Saturday to pick up some milk that was left in the freezer, and I saw two moms in their hospital gowns, getting ready to see their babies and I just wanted to hug them and make sure they were doing ok. As I was walking out I saw two more couples with the "NICU parent" badges that I was all too familiar with, and couldn't help but feel connected to them in a weird but special way. We were part of some club that you never ever want to be in, but just seeing another "club member" offers a strange comfort.

Life since being home has been pretty amazing. Of course, it has been an adjustment, but there aren't words to describe how it feels having her home with us. It's been a little hard taking the lead making decisions about her health. We were told not to take her out in public for 2-3 months, to limit visitors, and not to be around any little kids other than William. We've had to decide what exactly that means for our family. We have so many family members and sweet friends just dying to meet her and hold her. I am getting better at letting other people hold and touch her... It may not seem like it, but I've made huge steps since she's been born :)

I feel like we are finding our stride as a family. Things are feeling more settled, and I feel more at peace. The adrenaline that got me through those 11 days has since worn off and my body has realized that I did in fact have a baby, and I am exhausted. Exhausted but so, so happy.

My Tatum Grace,
You are such a strong little girl. I should have known that you were such a fighter given all you and I have been through already.
You've already lived up to your name. You have brought us so much joy. You brought our family closer together, we know we can do hard things.
I hope you keep that fighting spirit. If nothing else, you'll need it to keep up with Will.
you've taught me so much in such a small amount of time. you helped me realize just how much strength i have in me, and just how far my heart can stretch and still be full of so much love.

We love you so much, hopefully you will love being a part of our crazy family too.

i love you, my baby, I'm so glad I am your momma.

NICU (facts)

I've had to write this post over a few days, for a couple of different reasons. It has been quite a busy and chaotic time for us, and finding the time to process my feelings, let alone write them down, has been rare.

When they came in and told me that Tatum was going down to the NICU, it was around 1 in the morning. After my nurse left, I couldn't fall back asleep. So around 3:30, I woke up poor Billy, and said I wanted to go down to see her. So we called my nurse in and told her we wanted to go down and she helped get us a wheel chair and hook the catheter up to is and stuff. (Let me tell ya, few things are more awkward than rolling around the hospital with your pee on display...)

When we got there, we met with her MD, who said they were getting chest x-rays done, as well as doing a few other things, and that there wasn't a whole lot of room in there for us. So we sat in the parents' lounge and waited. Well, I thumbed through the NICU scrapbook, Billy slept on the couch. After about an hour and a half, we decided to head back to the room. Sitting on a hard wheelchair with a catheter in, is not all that comfortable, and we needed some sleep so we headed back up.

Later that morning, I got my catheter out, got a shower and changed into some real clothes, and got ready to go see our girl.

We walked in to see my sweet little baby hooked up to monitors and tubes and IVs and a high frequency ventilator that constantly, gently shook her little body, she was sedated and on pain meds, which helped, to know that she wasn't hurting. I told people I knew what to expect, but I wasn't sure that my heart was ready to see my baby so helpless and lifeless.

The first day was just a blur. Nurses, doctors, nurse practitioners, CNAs, home health doctors, lactation consultants, social workers, respiratory therapists, all came in to talk to us and overload us with information. To be honest, I listened, but knew that I wouldn't understand all that they were saying anyway. I just sat there, holding my baby's hand, and nodded and hoped Billy understood any of this. Later Tatum got a blessing from Billy and two of her grandpas that afternoon. It was was comforting and we knew she'd be ok.

On Wednesday I was discharged from the hospital. Billy and I spent the rest of the day in the NICU. We went home to get Will and have some dinner with him and put him to bed. Then I headed back to the hospital to be with her.

The first night away from her was horrible. I sat on the couch and sobbed to the point of hyperventilating. I wanted my baby home with me. It hurt to be so far away, and feel so powerless to do anything for her. It was probably the most devastated and defeated I've ever felt in my life. All I could do was have Billy hold me while we cried together.

The next few days were all the same. I would come and sit with Tatum, although she was sedated, talk to her and hold her hand. I'd do this for a few hours then head home to be with William. I'd get excited with the smallest changes. They seemed like we'd conquered Everest with each one. When they took out the tube sucking air out of her tummy, or when they took out her umbilical artery catheter, our when she started to get breastmilk, I would be so proud of her.

One night I got to help with her cares for the first time. I took her temperature, changed her diaper, brushed her hair, cleaned her mouth, helped weigh her. It was the most "interaction" with her I'd gotten in days. All the commotion, and the fact that she needed another dose of meds, she opened her eyes for a little while. She was very groggy, but it did my heart so much good to look into her eyes, even if it was just for that brief moment.

Friday afternoon I got the best surprise of all. I walked into her room and there was no ventilator, and her chest tube was out! Her nurse was so excited. Her whole NICU wing seemed to be in on the "surprise" and came in to see if I'd seen her yet, it was very sweet. Her nurse looked at me and said "I think you need to hold your baby!" We got to have some skin to skin time together, and it was magical. A few minutes in I called Billy and when he answered I said "guess what I'm doing right now... holding our baby!" About 20 minutes later he joined me and was holding our little girl. It made me so happy to see. After they extubated her, they took off her CO2 monitors on her chest and she let out the saddest, most hoarse cry, but she CRIED! It's weird to say, but it was the best sound!

The next few days she slowly but surely got better, and we got more and more anxious to get her home. I was able to start nursing her, and since they wanted me there for at least 3 feedings, I started spending more time there. William was passed around from family member to family member, and while he didn't seem too much worse for the wear, I couldn't help but feel torn in my time, and guilty no matter where I was.

Pretty soon we got to the point where all she needed was to keep doing great with her feedings and she could come home. That was the most frustrating. She was doing so well and I just wanted her home. On Friday, the 21st we got the best news, that we could bring our girl home! She had to do a carseat test, basically, she had to sit in her carseat for 90 minutes without any desats in her oxygen levels. She passed with flying colors.

The discharge process was a bit long and tedious, probably mostly because we were so ready to have her home, and all that they were doing just seemed to be prolonging that. But after some happy, tearful hugs, we signed out of the NICU for the first time.

Life post-NICU has been interesting. I have to keep reminding myself that I don't need to scrub all the way up to my elbows all the time, or that I don't need to taker her temperature or weigh her diapers every three hours. I still bathe in hand sanitizer. I'm sure it will be quite a while before she and I are away from each other.