Wednesday, May 30, 2012

10 Days Remaining

10 Days
Today begins the 10 day breast milk countdown. Sweet Pea will have gotten BM for 10 months!  I stopped pumping 49 days ago, so she will have gotten milk from my freezer stash for 59 days (until June 9). Although I will always wish I'd been able to really breastfeed her, I am thrilled that I could give her milk for so long.

Now I wonder though: will she start cow's milk at 1 year actual or adjusted? I still add calories to all of her bottles - will I need to add calories to cow's milk?

In other random news, I've just signed on as a Simply Fun consultant under my sister! I am excited for this new adventure and hope it will enable me to spread the word about the importance of play in learning. More to come...

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Companion Planting

T'maters were planted Monday
It's a stunning day in the Kingdom and Sweet Pea and I are going to take full advantage of it. After our morning walk with friends it's time to finish the tomato patch.

My tomato and pepper seedlings all died this year so I took a field trip sans baby to Berry Creek Farm Sunday afternoon and picked up 18 tomato plants, 12 pepper plants, and a bunch of flowers for the deck. I got the tomatoes planted Monday just before it rained on Tuesday - perfect timing.

Yesterday I got my basil seeds in the dirt - I am hoping to have 6 plants although I haven't had much success in the past. I've read a lot about companion planting and although Wikipedia says that in blind taste tests people couldn't tell the difference between 'maters planted with basil and 'maters planted without, I'm doing it anyway.

So, after our walk today we will hit up the greenhouse again in search of Marigolds. I like to plant them all throughout my garden, but am going to focus on the tomatoes today. I think 12 plants should do the trick. Once they are planted, the patch should look like this:

The plants won't be THIS close together in real life!
This weekend the Hubs and I are going to plant the rest of the garden - and I will turn 35.  (Next year I'll stop acknowledging my age!)  It will require lots of sunscreen, bug repellant, and patience! What are your plans for the long weekend?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

NEK Moms: Blood Draws for Babies

Today at NEK Moms I've written about tips for making a blood draw easier on you and your baby. For example, did you know babies need to be well-hydrated to make it easier to find a vein and get the blood flowing? Learn more at NEK Moms!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Lessons from the NICU: Patience

At one point during our NICU stay it seemed that every baby around us was a full-term baby, and they were all there for minor (at least to me) issues like jaundice. They'd stay a day or two and then would head home completely healthy.

Because I could hear everything from the "cubicles" surrounding my baby I knew what was happening with all of these neighbor babies and could easily hear the complaints from their mothers. Many of these moms were upset that they could not immediately take their baby home, even though they were only expected to stay for a day or two. At this point I'd already been in the NICU with Sweet Pea for over a month and it seemed like we were making no progress toward getting her home.

Often I could not nurse Sweet Pea because she was on bowel rest - the result of not knowing what the hell was wrong with her digestive system. (Eventually Boston Children's did discover that she had a stricture - scar tissue - blocking her sigmoid colon. But at this point she would stop eating and pooping every 5 days and we had no idea why.) She had just gotten over an infection and was starting to eat again, although she was having trouble remembering how to nurse so I was at her side all through the day so that I could practice at every opportunity.

One day, I got to the NICU early enough to snag one of the "nice chairs" so that I could be comfortable nursing and kangarooing with Sweet Pea throughout the day. Just after noon however, one of the nurses came over and told me she needed my chair for a "nursing mother."

Let me tell you how badly I lost it. I gave Mean Nurse the chair (because I knew they were coveted and I did have it all morning) but then immediately burst into tears. Our nurse overheard and went searching for something for me to sit in, finding what was essentially an office chair. Great. I'd really be able to nurse now. I just knew that my chair had gone to one of the mothers with a term baby and that they were going home while I'd be stuck forever in the hospital.

Poor me.

That night I asked if we could go home. Not home, home. But I wanted to be transferred to our home hospital - which has no NICU. I just could not stand to feel stuck any longer, and my heart couldn't take watching any more babies go home while we sat and waited. To my surprise, the docs thought it would be okay. They thought Caroline's main issue was just to re-learn how to nurse and then she'd be fine.
This is how your transport a baby in an ambulance!

Within a couple of days we were at our home hospital. I thought it would be great.

It wasn't.

I'll skip the details but it turned out that 5 days after she had started eating again she was sick. My husband had planned a BBQ at our house to thank all the people who had been helping us out (I did not think this was a good idea - too soon to celebrate in my mind), and while we were at our house our daughter began fighting for her life. The infection that ensued was so nasty that it caused her to stop breathing. To this day I am extremely grateful to the nurse who noticed what was happening and who called for help.

We had some warning that things weren't going well. The whole time we were at our home hospital Sweet Pea looked terrible. She was having terrible gas and diarrhea. She refused to eat and would throw up anything that we forced into her through the NG tube - including her meds. There was faulty medical equipment at the hospital and so the nurses weren't sure at first whether she was really having problems or if it was just the equipment acting up.

The night of the BBQ Sweet Pea had to be intubated so that she could breath and Dartmouth was called to come pick her up. This was not a problem a level 3 hospital could manage.

After a very long night of no sleep (now our second most terrible night ever), we made it to Dartmouth and Sweet Pea was started on antibiotics and tests were being run to determine the problem. However, I learned my lesson: this was not something that I could rush. It didn't matter that I wanted her at home, she was not ready. It didn't matter that I was upset about the term-babies who were going home all around us, Sweet Pea was not ready. I needed to be patient with this process and I hadn't been. Now it felt like we were starting over.

No one with a baby in the NICU wants to be told to be patient, especially when those around you are going home while you continue to wait. But patience and time really are the most powerful warriors.
Life is pretty good now!

Read my first post about things I learned in the NICU here.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

DI in the News

A doctor has found the cure for a mysterious and debilitating condition which afflicted people in a rural part of Sweden with the need to urinate up to 15 litres a day.
Read more:

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Steam mop envy

A while back a friend posted on Facebook that she had just used a steam mop for the first time and was amazed at how clean her floors were afterward. I've been jealous ever since.

We installed new hardwood floors in our living room and bedroom last year (to match the ones already in the kitchen and dining room) and they looked beautiful until Sweet Pea's reflux got bad... then it got ugly in here.

Floors that had been relatively easy to maintain now look like they've been smeared with Elmer's glue. Yuck.

So guess what I requested for my first Mother's day:
Yep. A Steam Mop. And I believed it arrived yesterday from Amazon! Can you tell how excited I am?

I've always been practical about gifts and while I would love to spend my first Mother's day being pampered at a spa, this year having clean floors is going to be even more enjoyable. (And no need to use chemicals!)

So what about you?Any odd requests this Mother's day? Anyone requesting "Fifty Shades of Grey"?  

Monday, May 7, 2012

Easiest Mobile Ever

When I was pregnant I spent hours looking at nursery decor, especially once I was on bedrest and had nothing better to do. From all of my "research" I knew I wanted a functional mobile for the crib, and a pretty mobile to hang above the rocking chair. There are some beautiful mobiles on etsy:
from Whimsical Accents
from Hannah and Aspen
from Birds of a Feather by Lacey414
But... all of the ones I loved were $60+! I decided to make my own.

Since I live in the middle of nowhere all DIY craft projects take a lot of planning. You have to order everything that you need online or drive far, far away. God forbid you forget something! After much brainstorming I decided to go the easiest route possible. (Recently I've seen many other bloggers post their mobiles based on the same idea.)

I bought a Photo Clip Mobile from Amazon for less than $10.Then, I found wonderful bird postcards at a quaint gift shop in Southern Vermont. You can find them on Amazon now for $10.80. (Amazon has everything a rural Mama needs!)

Once you have your mobile and whatever it is you want to hang from it, just put it together and you have something cute, inexpensive and reusable. (I would NOT hang this above or near a crib because I am a worrier and would fully expect it to come tumbling down on baby while she's sleeping!)
Hung with a push pin and fishing string.

Our cozy little reading corner!
Other versions of similar mobiles include this fancy bird one at Iffer's Nest, or this under the sea-themed mobile at Renewing My Mind, or this photo mobile at Apartment Therapy. So many different ideas!

I am STILL not finished with Sweet Pea's nursery (again, no big deal since she doesn't live in there anyway) but when I am done I'll post pics!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Lessons from the NICU: Strength

Sweet Pea's first 90 days of life were spent in the NICU at Dartmouth and Boston Children's Hospital. Tomorrow she'll be nine months old and we will celebrate having been home for twice as long as we were in the hospital. Although it's been six months since we left the hospital, it often feels like it was just last week.

I often think about the things that I learned (about myself and about life in general) from spending so much time in the hospital with her. Over the next few Friday's I'll share some of the insights I had from that time.

Glacier National Park - a pic from our honeymoon
I never thought of myself as a particularly strong person. I've survived my share of crap in life, but I've done it with a lot of worrying and crying and lost sleep. However, I became strong - or perhaps just aware that I am strong -while we were in the NICU.

When Sweet Pea was born at 32 weeks gestation I thought we were doing pretty well. The docs were able to stop labor at 28 weeks and I successfully baked her another month (while on bed rest). When she was born on August 5 after 18 hours of scary labor (more on that another time) she was a good size for her age, she had 9s for her Apgar scores, and she came out screaming. I even got to hold her after they got her cleaned up!

Later that night I got to breastfeed her and she seemed to be doing great. Although sleep was interrupted all through that first night because I had to pump, I felt good knowing that Sweet Pea was healthy and had hoped we'd be part of that lucky few who get to take their babies home from the NICU before her due date.
Day 3
The next day we were told that she was slightly jaundice and needed to be kept under the lights. We understood that this was nothing out of the ordinary and actually thought her "sunglasses" were cute; she looked happy under the warm lights in her little incubator. My husband and I got to kangaroo with her off and on over the next few days - although not for very long because we wanted her to get as much photo-therapy as possible so we could take her home. I continued to pump away and would offer her the breast on occasion. On day 5 things started to look bad - this is what I wrote on my personal blog:
We spent the day with Caroline but she wasn't doing so hot. I tried to nurse her but she wasn't at all interested, instead she just fell back to sleep. They continued to feed her my milk but she stopped digesting it and thought perhaps she had a slowed digestive system from the jaundice. We left around 5:30PM and I just had a bad feeling. She was so out of it all day but I am hopeful tomorrow will be better.
Day 5 - under the lights, but we'd been moved out of the critical side of the NICU
Around 9PM that night the NICU called to say that after we left Sweet Pea started to have a lot of As & Bs (apnea and bradys). She had also started throwing up and she was very lethargic. (To this day I don't understand why they didn't call sooner.) We rushed to the hospital:
The doctor's suspected an infection of some sort so they started antibiotics. They took blood and urine for a culture, took x-rays, and did a spinal tap to check for meningitis.  ...She was continuing to stop breathing and her heart kept slowing down, in addition her blood sugar levels were sky high. As we were standing there my nightmare came true. My poor baby would not breathe and turned an awful shade of purple and we were told to leave her area. They tried a C-PAP to get her some air but it didn't help, so they had to intubate her.
The "nightmare" I spoke of was literally a nightmare I had had the night before. I dreamed that Caroline had died in front of me.
Day 6
This was one of the longest nights of my life. Throughout it all I kept telling myself that if I could survive this, I could survive anything - and that mantra came in handy as we experienced similar trauma two more times over the course of Sweet Pea's hospital stay.

Within a week of this event Sweet Pea would be diagnosed with NEC (necrotizing enterocolitis - which, as it turns out, she didn't actually have; instead she would later be diagnosed with a stricture in her sigmoid colon and would require surgery to remove it) and central diabetes insipidus. She would have her first surgery to place a subclavian IV line, her first ultrasound, and her first MRI. We would also experience the DDAVP drug shortage for the first time - we had to wait a day for a diagnostic test because the hospital couldn't get it in.

Things would get worse before they got better, but today we are home with our precious baby girl and she is going great!
She's a reader, just like her Mama!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Got some...

Just wanted to update everyone on our DDAVP issue. I spent Tuesday on the phone trying to get some answers re: the shortage. The FDA website showed that one company had the injectable in stock so I called them (Sanofi) and spoke to 5 different people - but the last person was incredible. She is a pharmacist for the company and explained that they did have DDAVP in stock but that it was brand name, not generic (apparently they are no longer making generic). She suggested calling our mail order place to make sure that they were checking for both products. I also picked her brain about the shortage in general (she said it was not a raw material issue since they are able to make the other versions of DDAVP but she didn't know why they keep running in to shortages) and asked some more specific questions regarding the rhinal tube (on back order because of the tube, not the medicine) and the nose spray (she tried but was unable to pry the lid off the container). All in all, very helpful stuff.

Next I called our mail order company - I now have the direct number to the backorder department - and asked them if they had checked both brand name and generic. What do you think their answer was? Our conversation went like this:
Me: "Do you have the brand name DDAVP in stock?"
Agent: "Let me check...... Yes, we do but it will cost you $40. Are you sure you don't want to wait?"
Me: "If my daughter doesn't get this medicine will have to go to the ER; so yes, I want the medication now."
I wanted to scream. She proceeded to tell me that yes, the prescription is written for either product so in the future they will check for both. Why they didn't check for both on Monday is beyond me.

Because I wanted to make double-sure that the nose spray cannot be broken into, I went to my handy-dandy DI Facebook group (love them) and asked if anyone had done it before. Not one, but two people responded with pictures and descriptions of how they pry the tops off. Fabulous! There has NEVER been a shortage of nose spray so at next week's appointments I hope that we can come up with a plan to switch to that product (which we would give to Sweet Pea orally, thus the need for breaking into the bottle).

As a side note, once I cleared up the generic/brand issue it took exactly 22 hours for me to receive 4 vials of her meds + supplies for giving it. They sent it all overnight... we now have 6 months worth of meds. Hooray!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Suffering for Beauty (Or, Am I Blonde Enough?)

Throughout history women have suffered for beauty. Chinese women practiced foot binding hoping for better marriage prospects through tiny feet. Neck stretching, lip plates, and waist-cinching are all methods used (or previously used) to achieve beauty. In American culture women pluck, wax, dye, paint, tan and surgically enhance their bodies to live up to the pop-culture view of what's beautiful. Often the results of these procedures are anything but beautiful (a common example from middle-school girls is the botched dye job, or in 20-somethings, botched breast implants). I've participated in my share of beautifying, although I like to think less so than typical American women. However, I decided recently to attack my hair with hopes of being a blonde again.

I was born blonde. Well, more of a reddish-blonde; it was definitely not brown. Growing up in Florida and playing outside kept me blonde as a kid. Hours spent at the beach or on the tennis court resulted in a pale, strawberry blonde that I really liked. Even now, when I am in the sun my hair lightens quite a bit. This has allowed me to avoid having to pay for professional highlights or color over the years (and not exactly in a teacher's budget!).

A few times I did pay for highlights. These were mostly in college when I thought student loans were supposed to be spent on things like that. (Oh the lessons we learn the hard way...) When I moved to Atlanta and decided to chop off my hair and donate it to Locks of Love, I got highlights for free. Once the sun-bleached hair was pony-tailed and cut, all that was left was what my Mom would call "mousy brown" looking hair. The hairstylist suggested highlights and instead of comping the haircut, offered to comp the color. Yes! After that I again maintained my hair by spending time on the lake or on the tennis court. Ah, the benefits of free sunshine (and sometimes a little lemon juice)!

 This past July - one of my favorite months for free sunshine - I was 28 weeks pregnant and put on bedrest. After a month of laying around in my bedroom my Sweet Pea decided she wanted to come eight weeks early, with health problems. Besides completely altering everything meaningful in my life, this also meant (get ready for a completely superficial complaint) 90 days spent indoors with practically no sun. Dang. There goes my hair.

I wouldn't have really noticed my hair color but for my dear husband who reminded me - what seemed like weekly - about my new brown hair, which he claimed was lovely. With every remark I cringed. How could I possibly have brown hair? Even my child has white-blonde fuzz on her head, I couldn't have birthed such a thing unless I too was blonde! Now there isn't anything wrong with real brown hair. But that's not what we are talking about. Mine had turned into - gasp! - mousy brown. How could this be? I told myself I didn't care and that this was the least of my worries. But upon returning home from the hospital and realizing that I no longer had a job to go to where I must look decent, I decided to take a chance and color my hair. If it looked bad at least no one but the husband and the babe's doctors would see it.

But why do I care so much about being blonde? First of all, I want to keep the color I grew up with. I always liked being blonde, whether it was because I had heard several thousand times that "blondes have more fun" or more likely,  because my natural color has been complemented by numerous hairdressers. Once, I was even selected to be a model for Aveda in a hair show in Orlando because of the color of my hair. All I had to do was walk around wearing a deep-conditioner treatment for 3-days and I scored a nice check and tons of free product. Also, I associate my hair getting darker with aging - and seriously - who wants to get old?
8th Grade: Notice how the blonde hair just stands out in the crowd? ;)
After reading up on how to select the right color from a do-it-yourself hair coloring kit, I went to the drug store. I debated briefly the pros and cons of using the "dark golden blonde" (was my hair so brown that dark blonde would be enough to lighten it?), "medium golden blonde" (perhaps this was the right shade?), or "light golden blonde." Light golden blonde seemed like it would do the trick. Just enough blonde without being super noticeable. I waited for the husband to go to work the next day before attempting my experiment, mostly because I wondered if he would even notice the new color. After getting the babe to sleep, I began by reading the instructions of the kit, but was rudely interrupted by the phone ringing. I ran to answer it and was surprised to hear that it was the dermatologist I had seen just the week before. The backstory:

Last week Sweet Pea had a couple of follow-up appointments so I figured that while we were at the hospital I might as well get some really ugly stuff (seborrheic keratosis) that had grown during pregnancy frozen off my skin. Although I've had lots of suspicious moles removed in the past, I had been cleared a couple years back to stop my twice-yearly mole-check appointments and just to show up when I thought something looked weird. I was not at this appointment because of a weird mole; I was there to improve how my skin looked. During the visit the doc found a scary looking mole on my back and sliced it off, and I thought Great! So glad to get that removed while I'm here. Moving on...

The dermatologist told me that unfortunately the mole they removed was no good. In fact, it showed signs of severe atypia - meaning that it's the kind of precancerous mole most likely to turn into melanoma if not removed. She told me to schedule surgery and they would make sure to get rid of the rest of it, thus preventing any type of cancer. Wonderful news. And completely ironic too.  Here I am about to color my hair so that it again looks "sun bleached"  while receiving news that all that time spent in the sun has caused potentially life-threatening damage. Now I'll spend the rest of my life indoors or covered up, not to mention that I'll have to keep coloring my hair until eternity!

And the results of that light golden blonde hair dye? Well, what do you think?

Before (left) and after (right). Absolutely no difference!
*And the husband didn't notice either!
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