Tuesday, December 23, 2008

My Son, the Knitter

It finally clicked for him. He has been wanting to knit since he was four. I took him to the local yarn shop and he picked out some bright green yarn. "I'm going to knit a hat for you, Mommy!" I would have worn it, too.

From time to time, he would express a desire to knit and would sit on my lap with my hands over his. We would knock off a row or two on his little swatch before either he or I would loose interest.

This time, however, I sat with him through two or three stitches and then he was knitting--by himself! It was so exciting, like watching the first real steps, or the first real smile. I couldn't believe it.

He has so much patience for the process of learning to knit. Usually he gets overwhelmingly frustrated when he can't do something well the first time he sets his hand to it. As he learns to knit, though, he will patiently stab his needle through his knitting, through the stitch below his working stitch, then finally through his intended loop before carefully wrapping his yarn around the needle. He will allow me to correct him and to assist him to re-do a stitch. He will work slowly and patiently toward his goal (which now appears to be a woolen washcloth, according to Thomas). He is so proud to be learning.

Most amazingly, when his patience began to wear out, he actually took my suggestion to put the knitting aside for a while.

I am so proud of my little knitter.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

How It Gets Done

Problem: I don't have much time to knit any more.  But, I really want to finish Rachel's mittens.  Usually I have a little time at the end of the day to work on a project, but when your Knitting Hour collides with Baby's Angry Hour (read: 2-3 hours) something has to give and it's always the knitting.  

Solution: Thank goodness Henry likes my fleece pouch.  Thank goodness it's so simple to use a sleep deprived mom can use it!

Forgive my sullen immigrant expression.  I resemble my great-grandmother who was an immigrant and she never looked so sullen.  Really, I was simply intent on getting the greatest quantity knit while the baby was content (Commando Knitting).  I'm sure that's why our ancestors looked like that in the old photos.  They had many more babies and much more to do.  My particular ancestors had to do it on a diet of cabbage and corned beef on top of it, too.  I pity those moms!  I bet they had to knit while standing over a wood burning stove and frying bacon--and no fleece pouch for the babes.  Times have sure changed.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Random

We've been busy as usual around here. I've been encouraging Thomas and Anna to play outside more, but it's hard to know when it's too cold to send time out, even in full winter gear. I can't even rely on their judgment since five minutes after they go out they want to come in. How is it that some children can stay outside for hours in the icy cold, but others spend more time getting ready to go out than actually playing in the snow?


Here's a picture of Henry swinging with Anna's dolls. I guess he must have looked lonely.


In knitting news, I spent the greater part of two days knitting Anna a balaclava. She needed something to keep her face warm during her Compulsory Outdoor Rec time. My first thought was to knit her a scarf, but as I thought about it more it occurred to me that this would be more comprehensive. Also, scarves tend to fall down and this would keep her face warmer.


I couldn't find anything on Ravelry in a toddler size so I had to improvise. I used the concept in Homespun, Handknit: Caps, Socks, Mittens & Gloves book by Interweave Press. I cast on fewer stitches and made everything else proportionally smaller. Around the face opening, when I picked up stitches, I k2tog across the top for a snugger fit across the forehead. Anna wore it outside this morning and said that it worked fine. I felt her cheeks and they were still mostly warm. If she continues to wear it and to be able to see out of it I will consider it a success. Now Thomas wants one so I'll have to whip one up when I have time.

Mostly I've been test knitting a pattern for Rachel. She has an etsy shop where she sells, among other things, her own original patterns. She's working on a kit for a felted mitten that she developed. There is a bunch of striping on the backs of the mittens (which are knitted flat, lightly seamed together, and then felted to make a solid mitten) and it's taking me some time to work through it because of the little interruptions running around the house. She's being patient though. She even gave me some homemade Irish Cream to drink while I knit them. Hm. Maybe that's why it's taking me so long to knit them. Since I'm running out of Irish Cream, I'll probably finish the last mitten in a couple of days. If Rachel says it's ok I'll post pictures to show you.

I also plan to post pictures of the little shrug I knit for Anna. I'll get a picture sometime today. Henry calls so I have to say good bye!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Eureka!

We have an older house with older windows. It's not usually a warm place in the winter with the leaks and drafts that usually accompany an older home. This winter has been feeling a little chillier than usual though.

I finally figured out why our house has been feeling so cold this winter.

Henry and I were sitting in the nursery, rocking and nursing (yea!). I'd been noticing that the baby's room was cold these days. Odd, since it's usually the toastiest room in the house. I could hear the wind bowing outside and I noticed that with each gust the shade and blinds on the window would sway back and forth a little. You don't suppose. . .

Yup. While I was away this summer someone opened the storm window in the nursery, which I don't usually do since the sound of the whistle at the train crossing can be a little loud for a nappy baby. I've been so distracted that it didn't even occur to me to go around shutting the storm windows like I usually do which would have caused me to give the nursery windows a cursory glance at least.

A quick tour of the upstairs revealed an open storm window in our room and the bathroom. I didn't check the windows in Anna's room yet (I'll bet at least one of them is open) since Henry was sleeping by that time. Now I'm going to go around and check the windows downstairs. I'm just hoping that the storm window in Thomas's room are closed since we already put plastic up. The storm windows in his room hardly count anyway, though. Often in the winter you can see tiny drifts of snow blowing in around the edges of them and the wind will blow the curtains inside the room.

Minnesota. God, I love it here.

Monday, December 1, 2008

My Hands, They Are Full

I think that recent sleep deprivation has left me a little punchy. I was washing potatoes for dinner tonight, imagining what I wanted to say, and all that came to mind were stupid, corny jokes that would barely be funny if you were in the same room with me. Luckily I realized how silly I was being before actually writing anything down.

Tomorrow Henry has another weight-check. I want to make sure that he's still growing, I guess. Babies seem to grow all of a sudden. Days and days can pass with no apparent change and then you're trying to fit them into a wee sleeper before you realize that they really should be wearing a 5T.

There have been many challenges with my oldest child lately. It's hard to know where to find help sometimes. I worked in daycare and school programs for years and he still has me up against a wall. I've been reading Love and Logic and Raising your Spirited Child. I'm not sure how much help books will be, though. I'm fairly convinced that when he's grown you'll be hearing about him on the news--either because he's discovered a cure for the common cold or because he's raised up a small army to conquer a small country. I wish I could look ahead to see how he's going to turn out. It would take a lot of the suspense out of my daily life.

I'd like to just boot the kids outside, but they are both (understandably) reluctant to go out and play in 20 degree weather. We aren't able to see many people since Henry needs to be protected from illness. Already both Anna and Thomas are climbing the walls.

It's only been cold here for a few weeks. Sometime mid-winter you may see PLEH DNES etched in my frosty windows.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Stunned, but in a Good Way

First, I want to say Happy Birthday to my Anna who is now a big 3 year old.  She is by far my most laid-back child, but she is still full of energy and determination.  She is so easy to love.

I'm sure that if you have been following long with Henry's story that you will be happily surprised with the news that is coming next.


Henry has finally caught on.  He is finally a Good Eater.  It was touch and go the first week.  He was hostile and angry the first days as he worked to get my milk supply up.  After ten weeks of solely pumping my supply wasn't fabulous, to be sure.  There were nursing sessions that seemed hopeful, but for the most part he didn't seem to be nursing well and he never seemed contented.  We weighed him at the clinic after a week and found that he hadn't gained any weight at all.  Since he wasn't loosing any weight, our doctor thought he could have another week to try.  Her tone was rather neutral--He wasn't loosing weight, which was good, but it was time for him to "fish or cut bait".  At 42 weeks, we had certainly been patient enough with him.  I brought him in again on Friday for another weigh-in and found that he'd gained an ounce and a half!  We were very encouraged.

Today we went in again (!) and found that he had gained a whopping six ounces over the weekend!  So, I think breastfeeding is working out after all.  Really, I'm as surprised as you are.  And THANK GOD.  We figured out the cost of formula feeding and it would cost approximately  $130 for Henry to get 4 oz bottles, to say nothing of the cost as he gets bigger.  How do people afford this?  That's more than what we spend on a week's groceries for our WHOLE FAMILY.

I'm so, so glad that this is finally working out.  He will still need to get two high-calorie bottles a day because of his prematurity, but it will be so much better (read: cheaper and easier) to breastfeed the rest of the time.

If you listed closely, I'm sure you can hear my sigh of relief.  Exhale.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Baby-Feeding

It has not been easy to feed this baby. I won't belabor the point by listing off all of the things we've been though to get Henry breastfeeding, but I've reached the point where I'm hanging on by sheer stubbornness and force of will. This is my last week.

I started out on this path pumping and waiting and pumping and trying to nurse because it's really the best thing for me and for Henry. I know how great breastfeeding can be so it wasn't hard. I moved past my best intentions and started relying on patience. I figured I could wait it out and that eventually this would work. Past patience I relied on blind faith that somehow this would take off and that Henry would be able nurse eventually, provided I could keep a supply for when he was ready. Past blind faith I relied on determination--This WILL work, provided I could keep the supply, wait it out, and keep giving him opportunities to practice. Now I'm just being stubborn. I don't know how to quit. I get just enough encouragement from Henry to keep plugging away, but not enough to make this worthwhile. It's just enough success to make me hope that by next week (it's always well, maybe NEXT week. . . ) he will be better.

My honor is satisfied. I know I've put my full effort into this and I know I have done my best. I know that there is nothing that I could have done differently, though I obviously wish there could have been a different outcome. I have been patient and worked hard, but right now it doesn't look promising.

These are my goals for the week: I will not get emotional about this. I will keep pumping as needed to keep up my supply. I will nurse Henry as he is able and I will give him a bottle if he isn't alert enough to nurse every three hours. At the end of the week I will bring him in for a weight-check. If his weight is suffering and he hasn't improved his performance at feeding times, it's off to Target I go to spend his college money on formula. I may spend the rest at the liquor store on some really nice whiskey.

Cheers.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Finished Project Report

I didn't mean to leave such a bummer post for so long.  We've been busy with a growing baby.  He has a weight-check appointment this evening and I'm expecting him to be near nine pounds.  It certainly feels that way as I carry him around in my sling.


This is what I finished today.  The yarn was a gift from Allison at the beginning of my hospital stay this summer.  I actually finished the sweater when I was in the hospital still, but I just bought buttons last night.  This sweater is so soft.  The yarn is Blue Sky organic cotton.  I have a wee bit of yarn left and I'm wondering if I could knit a washcloth for Rachel.  She doesn't have a dishwasher so she might like a special washcloth.  Organic, even.  

When Henry wakes up again I'll make him try it on.  I think he'll even wear it to his doctor's appointment tonight!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Grieve

I knew from the beginning that Henry might be my last baby. Apart from having high-risk pregnancies and harrowing deliveries, we felt like three children would be a good fit for our family. We hadn't decided for certain, though, and had planned on leaving the door open for a couple of years to see if we might find that our family had room for another child after all.

After our misadventures this summer, however, it would be irresponsible to take the risk of becoming pregnant again. It was a miracle that I stayed pregnant for so long after my water broke. And I don't say that lightly.

What happened for Henry came very close to being very bad. I can't imagine how this could have ended differently and still have been "okay", even though it has been difficult to go through. The decision has been made for us, it would seem. And even though I knew from the beginning that this could be my last go at having a baby, I find that the idea makes me pretty sad.

I wonder if women are always a little sad, or wistful, when it becomes apparent that they've had their last fuzzy headed baby. A friend from college was one of 13 children and when her youngest brother was three, it became clear to her mom that this would likely be her last child. And she was sad. After 13 babies, one whould think that she would be a little relieved to close the door on nighttime feedings and toilet training, but I also think I understand. Of some things, there is never enough. How could you ever have enough of that warm little weight snuggled on your chest, fluffy baby hair rubbed against your nose? After three or thirteen children, it is still the End and I guess you always wonder who that "One More" child would have been.

I certainly feel the loss of the healthy pregnancies and babies that most women expect to have. I try not to think about it too much because it just upsets me and I'm not sure there's anything to be gained by getting angry or sad or feeling like I've been cheated. It is what it is and I'm satisfied by the good outcomes my babies have had. But I need to let go of the fourth baby I felt entitled to choose along with the healthy pregnancies and the robust newborns and the carefree cold/flu season.

It will be a long process, one that starts with moving my baby girl clothing out of storage and into the home of someone who can use it. I walk by those tubs in the basement marked "Girl: 0-6 months" and I know that they will have to go. If you loose your left leg, do you still keep the left shoe when you buy a new pair? There won't be another girl to save it for and I find it as unnecessary as the proverbial left shoe.

It should go, and it will. But not yet. Most of it will likely get saved for my sister in law Rachel, but I am strongly repressing the urge to give it to my friends who have baby girls already. I love seeing the hand-me-downs running around on little ones and it might be too much to have to wait for Rachel to have a baby (who may have only boys!).

Having the choice made for me is one part blessing, another part burden. I'm not sure which has the greater share. After some distance from the events of the summer I'll be able to close this door with greater clarity and peace. I think I'm looking forward to that.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Fall Clothing

Do any of you remember wearing heavy-weight sweater tights when you were little?  For two years now I've looked for these tights so Anna can wear her twirly dresses in the winter without freezing her knees.  In lieu of these tights I've put leggings under her dresses, but I'm wondering if these tights are still available.

Also, as of last week Henry was 6 lbs 7 oz.  He gained a whole pound in a week!  This week I'm guessing he'll be about 7 lbs.  He's quite the little man!  Right now his whole world is sleeping, eating, diaper changes and fuzzy sleepers.  Not too bad if you ignore the occasional assault by his loving brother and sister.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Tricky Questions

We don't take Henry out much.  He was discharged from the NICU right at the beginning of cold and flu season so we need to keep him out of public places.  Besides, he needs to conserve his energy for growing.  One place I do need to take him, however, is the clinic for weekly weight checks.  The doctor needs to make sure he is gaining weight appropriately and adjust his calorie intake as needed.

We had an appointment last Tuesday and while I was there, something was brought to my attention by the other patients in the waiting room.  Five or six people must have asked me how old Henry is and I had no idea how to answer!  At first, I just said he was six weeks old--which is true--but anyone who has ever seen a newborn can tell that my wee five pound baby is not six weeks old.  Then I said that he was six weeks old, but that he was born premature.  I don't mind sharing what happened, obviously, but I don't know if I'm giving them more information than they want and I'm not always up for a long conversation about HOW early he was, HOW long he was in the hospital, HOW much he weighed when he was born, etc.  I can certainly chat someone up once in an evening, but five or six times?  I'm not sure I'm up for it.

This is really a non-issue, though.  We'll be taking him to the clinic once a week and that will be the extent of his outings until he is larger and his corrected age won't raise so many eyebrows.  And it's not like I find the questions or the conversation offensive or distressing in any way.  It's just a lot to talk about with strangers in a waiting room.  Over and over again.  Sometime, though, it's just hard to know what to say.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Infant Conspirator

I think Henry is conspiring against me.

I'm sure most mothers think this is true of their babies, but I have evidence.

Henry sleeps all day. Deep, heavy sleep broken only by his baby grunts and gurgles. It's nearly impossible to wake him to nurse for most feedings. I am usually able to wake him enough to take a sleepy bottle of breastmilk or formula, but that's it. I'm assuming that this is due to his prematurity and that his alertness will improve as he grows closer to term.

Despite days of bottle feeding and pumping, the last two evenings Henry has decided to be AWAKE! with the ALERTNESS! and in a desperate, crying need to NURSE! and to nurse MORE! Really, just like a real baby.

This is the only time during the day that his behavior resembles that of a regular newborn and I am wondering this: WHY, Henry, WHY would you pick the most aggravating part of a newborn's day to start behaving like a full-term baby?

I'm pretty sure I have enough milk--the other night I fed him as much as he wanted and I still sat down and pumped a record amount afterward. I am left to believe that Henry is sleeping so much during the day so that he will have plenty of energy to keep me occupied from dinner through the kids' bedtime.

If anyone had any theories or helpful hints, I'd be glad to hear them!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Who Would Have Thought

When it grows dark outside, my kids have a game they like to play called "Darkness". It usually consists of them running around the house in the near dark with wind-up flashlights playing whatever games occur to them at the time.

Tonight they insisted on near total darkness, despite the fact that they couldn't find their flashlights. They are pretending to be bats, which consists in them running from one side of the house to the other while saying "Bats!" over and over.

Really what I want to do right now, aside from enjoying their (repetitive) game, is to knit this little dishcloth I started today. Who would have thought a 32 year old woman, in her own home, would knit in the dark with only the glow of a computer screen because two little people want to pretend they are bats in the dark?

Monday, October 6, 2008

A Second Helping of Baby Cutie-Pie

I hope you'll forgive me the indulgent display of baby pictures.  I've waited a long time to have adorable baby photos to share.  The early photos of this child wouldn't have had the same effect as these do.  Isn't he cute?














So far, wee Henry sleeps a LOT.  Normally, this is a trait to be envied in a baby, but the result around here is mostly frustration.  He won't wake to eat like he should and so it can be difficult (read: frustrating, impossible, time-consuming) to get him to nurse.  I've given him two bottles already because I couldn't get him to wake for a feeding and it had simply been too long to let it go any longer.  He's still pre-term (35 weeks last Thursday) so I'm hoping that his drive to eat (and wake) will improve over the next couple of weeks.  Right now he's like the sleepiest newborn you've ever known. . . on valium.  

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Homecoming


The day has finally arrived!  Henry is home!

He came home Friday, to my surprise.  The night before he had his 12 hour scan test where they monitor his vitals to make sure he isn't dropping his heart rate or his breathing and that it's safe to bring him home.  I was worried about this one.  But I'll save you the drama by saying that I didn't think he would pass and that it would be still more days before we could bring him home, but I walked into the NICU that morning and the nurse asked, "So, how would you like to bring Henry home today?"

You bet.

It took way longer than it should have, but finally, FINALLY, Henry was discharged and we could bring him home.


When it came to leaving, I had both Thomas and Anna with me, Henry in his car seat, and several bags of Henry's things to bring home.  They offered to have one of the care assistants meet me out front with Henry and his impedimenta and I happily accepted.  But I looked at Henry, sitting in his car seat, and I considered how many hours it had taken to get him discharged.  Then I picked it up and said, no, I had better bring him with me.  I didn't want to risk the hospital screwing it up and having to spend another 4 hours trying to get him out the door.  No, I was taking him with me.  I could leave his blankets and clothes behind, but I wasn't going anywhere without my baby!

As I drove out of the parking lot I thought of the weeks and weeks I had spent in the hospital (7) and the weeks and weeks Henry had spent in the NICU (5).  I thought about how Saturday would be the first day in months that I wouldn't be going to the hospital.  I remembered it all and I started to cry, though only a little because I didn't want to have to explain to Thomas why I would be crying.  So much has happened and now we can finally try to settle back into our new life. 

I've had a premature baby before and I know that the next few months will be long ones.  But for now I'm not going to worry about it.  For now it's enough that Henry is finally home and all is well again.



Henry and Thomas

















Henry and Anna (Henry is just over 5 lbs)

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Upswing

Are you ready for some good news? For a change?

Henry has really gotten the hang of nursing! He just seemed to "click" with the idea of sucking and swallowing (and breathing) and has had a very good run of oral feeding. He got his first bottle at 1 a.m. last night and he did very well at that, too. The nurse practitioner who is in charge of Henry's case said that if he continues to do well he may be ready to come home this weekend. Did you catch that? This weekend.

I'm bringing in his car seat when I go in again this afternoon. Preemies need to have a "trial" in their car seat, hooked up to monitors for a period of time (15 min? 20 min? I can't remember what happened for Thomas). They want to make sure that their position in the car seat doesn't cause them to have apnea spells. Henry will also have another scan where he will be hooked up to very sensitive monitors for 24 hours and the doctors will see if he's having spells of not breathing or dropping their heartbeat that are too brief for the regular monitors to catch.

If he passes all of these tests, then he will finally be discharged and allowed to come home. Our house, of course, isn't anything to look at right now and is causing me more than a fair share of stress as the end of our remodel keeps getting pushed back. Everything is in disarray as we wait for the end of this (horrible) project. But I don't want to think about that right now. All I want to think about is that our time at the hospital may be coming to an END!

Hooray!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Temptation

Henry is learning to nurse. They want to give him a week to get breastfeeding established before beginning oral feedings with a bottle. Preemie babies don't experience nipple confusion the way a full-term baby will if you give them practice at breastfeeding first. They want me to come to the hospital for two feedings a day.

First, let me say that Henry has been doing very well for a wee 33 week preemie. He's latched on, mastered breathing and sucking as well as sucking and swallowing. He is an Olympic master. Someone should raise the American flag.

Now let me say this: Teaching a premature baby to breast feed is tedious, hair-pulling business. It is slow and often frustrating. It's all about giving them an opportunity to do something they aren't really ready for. You have to keep working at it, but you can't push too hard because too much effort will stress out your baby and you will have gotten nowhere. Even when they get kind of good at it, you need to figure out how much food they got while nursing and then supplement with either the bottle or the tube feeding. We are starting now, but it will take about two weeks before we are anywhere near having an adequately nursing baby. Even when we bring him home, he won't be stellar and we will have to carefully monitor his weight gain at the clinic for a few weeks to make sure he is getting enough calories. They just run out of energy so quickly and breast feeding takes a tremendous about of energy.

[Here is where our heroine stands shaking her clenched fists at the sky] I am so sick of doing all of this. I am tired of pumping, measuring milk output that isn't quite adequate, driving to the hospital and sitting for hours in the NICU. I don't want to have to worry about milk intake, minutes nursing, and weight gain like I did with Thomas. I want Henry to be wash-and-wear. I have done this all once before and I really feel like I've served my time. I feel like I'm on mile 18 of a 20 mile slog and I don't want to have to go another step. There is very little about this that is made better by previous experience. I appreciate that I'm not the only parent in the NICU that is going through this, or worse, but this is my temper tantrum and I'll have it, by God.

I want to give Henry a bottle. Bottling Henry would make so much easier in the short term. He could progress with his feedings whether I'm in the NICU or not. We would know how much he's taking orally at each feeding and would be able to supplement with the tube feedings as needed. I wouldn't have to worry about his weight gain as much after we've brought him home. I would know how much he is getting. Also, I wouldn't have to speak to another lactation nurse for as long as I live. There is one at the NICU who always stresses me out and makes me cry.

I know that breast milk is far and away better than formula. I know that. And that's why I'm going to keep breastfeeding until it's apparent that it isn't working. We need all of the immunities Henry can get particularly because of his prematurity. But I still wish I could quit and give this up entirely without worrying that he'll be the worse for it. It's so different with these little ones. Babies get all of their immune system stuff in the last few weeks of pregnancy. It's the same with their stores of iron, too. Premature babies don't really recover from that so they need iron supplements and the immunities from breastmilk more than a full-term baby.

It's just so hard to feel like you want to quit, but not feeling able.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Babies Sleep

It's a big day for wee Henry.  He's been practicing nursing for a few days now, but today he actually got some milk for his efforts!

Babies don't develop a reliable suck-swallow reflex until they're about 35 weeks.  Henry is showing signs that he is getting ready for life outside of the hospital.  He is over 4 lbs now and you can see by the picture that he is getting chubby cheeks!  I congratulated him on looking more like a baby and less like a fetus.  Perhaps that's only funny in the NICU.  When these babies are born so early they don't look like the babies you typically see strolling around malls in car seats and strollers.  Slowly, though, they grow and you start to see the baby they are going to be.

They have taken him off of that caffeine-like medicine.  He is still having the spells where his heart will stop beating or he will stop breathing for a bit, but the nurses don't seem concerned.  He bounces out of them pretty quickly and without intervention.

I have hopes that Henry will be home in about three weeks.  It could be as early as two weeks, but I'm not holding my breath.  And I'm willing to give him all of the time he needs.  Premature babies are more challenging to care for once they're finally home.  It's a pain to drive in to the hospital every day, but I am appreciating the 24 hour nursing that Henry has while I take care of things at home.  I can't wait until he is ready to come home!

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Land of Milk and Honey--but Mostly Milk

I don't know how many of you have been praying for me, but I thought you would be interested. My milk supply has nearly DOUBLED in the last two days.

I used to sit down and pump about half an ounce. It didn't matter much whether it had been two hours since I last pumped, or three. I would sit down and pump about half an ounce either way. Today I've been getting closer to a full ounce every time I pump (which is about every two to three hours)!

I'm still behind what Henry is needing, but it is extremely encouraging to see that my supply can go up and that I can hope to be able to meet his milk requirements when he's big enough to nurse.

So--Hurray!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Also!

I put on my pre-pregnancy pants today. While this would make normal people happy, I have to admit that it made me a little sad. The only reason I can fit into these pants three weeks post-partum is because I never had a chance to get very pregnant to begin with.

Things like this come up from time to time. I'll notice what I've lost in Henry's early birth and with my weeks in the hospital. I'll be able to let go of what should have happened eventually, but until then I'll have to simply be sad or angry on occasion.

Here's a small example: I live in Minnesota. It's winter here about six months out of the year and spring and fall another three and actual summer is only three months long. I went into the hospital in mid-July, right before my birthday. I was discharged at the beginning of September and got to enjoy a week of summer weather before getting smacked with hard core Fall. The high for today? Mid-sixties. I want my freakin' summer back.

Progress

I am so tired. I don't know how much of this is due to the bed rest and how much is due to irregular sleep patterns.

I've really given up pumping much milk at night. I pump about every two hours during the day and several times in the evening after the kids go to bed. I'm taking fenugreek in an attempt to increase my milk supply. It works great if you want to smell like maple syrup. For me, it is doing little to help me make more milk.

I am hoping that I'll be able to make enough milk to nurse Henry when he gets home. I'll have to do high-calorie preemie formula twice a day when he gets home and my doctor thinks that between this and what I'm producing he should have enough. I'll give it a trial, but it's hard to be optimistic when I spend time pumping and have so little to show for it. I am coming to terms with the idea that Henry might be my "bottle baby". In the meantime, if any of you have miracle ideas for increasing my milk supply while I'm pumping, I would love to hear them.

They had put Henry on a medicine that acts like caffeine to stimulate his heartbeat and breathing. It was working very well and now they want to try him off of it. They'll know pretty quickly if he needs some more time on it. If he doesn't, that's great; if he does, it's not a big deal since he'll do fine off of it as he matures.

They also moved Henry from his isolette into an open crib. We are waiting to see if he will maintain his own body temperature. So far he has done okay. He is hanging on to the bottom edge of what they deem acceptable. I imagine that he will improve as he gains more weight and that he won't need to be moved back to the isolette unless someone gets twitchy.

That's all for now. I need to put Anna down for her nap and see if Thomas feels sleepy. I need a break. It is amazing how tired a person can be and still go trough the motions of living.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Photos

I thought I'd share some pictures of Henry. He's back up to his birth weight now--a whopping 3 lbs 9 oz.

They moved him into a "satellite nursery". Since he is stable they decided he could go to the Level II NICU and out of the Level III NICU. They needed to make room for more critically ill babies. It means we have to give up our private room and that instead of one nurse to two babies, Henry is sharing a nurse with two to three other babies. I miss the privacy of our single room. I miss it a lot. Henry is in a big room that can be divided by curtains. I'm not looking forward to teaching Henry how to breastfeed in such an open area! But I am happy that Henry is doing so well.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Comfort Food

I've never been one for comfort eating. I understand the idea of having foods that are comforting in a nostalgic, sentimental way, and I certainly have cravings for junk food occasionally, but I've never been one who just eats because it feels good.

Since Henry has been in the hospital, that has certainly changed. I've not only been craving the crappiest food on the planet--Doritos, candy bars (I haven't had a candy bar in years!), ice cream, and chocolate in any form--but I've found that just eating any kind of food feels good. It may be because I'm actually hungry, but I'm surprised at how satisfying it is to eat.

I think it's a latent coping mechanism that I've never needed before. I've been under so much stress as I recover from the surgery, live through the last weeks of the kitchen remodel, try in vain to establish some kind of milk supply with the breast pump, and make as many trips to the NICU as I can in a week. I feel like I've had an emotional headache for two weeks now.

A lot of this is normal, post-partum hormonal wreckage. And a lot of it is just living in flux as we wait for Henry to grow big enough to bring home. Some of it is having my house, which I like to be a stable, familiar place, torn up. Eating seems to get me out of my head and helps me bring focus to my physical body. It's not a great place to be, either, what with the incision, the water retention, and the stretch marks, but it's certainly a better neighborhood than my mind is these days.

I think I'm glad that this is the last time I'll be having a baby. After everything we've been through with our babies there isn't a person alive who would think pregnancy is a good idea for me. It's just too much drama. And I'm not sure that there are enough candy bars in the world to keep me covered if this were to happen again!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Verdict Is. . .

The doctors have decided for now that Henry's drops in heart rate and breathing are due to his prematurity. His hemoglobin is a bit low, but not low enough to make the doctors think that this is what is causing his problems. For now, they have decided to put him on a medicine that acts like caffeine to stimulate his breathing and heart rate. So, my baby is gestationally 31 weeks along now and already he's an espresso junkie.

I'm inexplicably pleased with this diagnosis. Because I knew that this might happen, it seems less frightening. It also means that Henry will get poked one less time than he would if this were a problem requiring a blood transfusion. Peter is still looking into donating some blood so that it will be available if Henry does require it. It won't go to waste in any event.

I'm hoping that in a few days he'll be off of the oxygen and back on track. He'll be 32 weeks on Thursday and I'm hoping that he'll continue improving and that he'll be on track to coming home. You know--in another month and a half.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

This Is What They Mean When They Say "Expect Setbacks"

I called Henry's nurse at the NICU to check in on how he's been doing today.

Premature babies often have what are called "spells" where they either stop breathing or their hearts stop beating. Sometimes they are subtle and the babies come out of them on their own (which is what Henry has been having periodically) or they are more dramatic and they require someone, like the nurse, to come in and rub their scalp or move them to get them going again. Thomas had these, like most premature babies, and Henry had been having them, too. They weren't a big deal and he was doing very well since he only had them occasionally and most of the time he came out of them on his own. Yesterday he started having them more frequently and they had to put him back on the oxygen.

I always suspect the nurses of down playing any of these "bumps" in the road to prevent parents like me from weeping on the phone and tearing their hair out overnight. However, the nurse was pretty casual about this little setback. She explained that they would be doing some blood tests to see if he was destating more due to low hemoglobin levels or if he was possibly not making his own red blood cells yet due to his prematurity. If this is the case, they would need to give him, what did she say?, a blood transfusion? It's hard to say because the buzzing in my ears was pretty loud at this point. I asked if Peter could donate the blood since he was a match, but there wouldn't be enough time to donate and have the blood processed for Henry to get it. I imagine if he needs multipule transfusions this would be possible for the future.

I was just begining to think that Henry's stay in the NICU would be as boring and uneventful as Thomas's had mercifully been. I had been hoping that my biggest challenge would be developing a decent milk supply using the breast pump. I guess patience is still the greatest virtue at this point. It's just so hard to be patient and brave all at the same time.

Spinning Plates

We're having a quiet day at home today. We're trying to settle into some kind of familiar routine, despite having a battery of childcare helpers coming while I recover from Henry's c-section. Our kitchen is still torn up (and thus the whole house) from the remodel and nothing is where is should be, including the plumbing, and this is contributing to a sense of disruption. A quiet day at home together is just what we need.

Any surface appearance of normality is purely an illusion for me, though. Most of my family is here with me, but it's not the same as it was. It's strange how Henry has changed our family even though he's never been here with us. I don't think our family will be the same while he's still in the hospital.

I don't feel as torn and guilty about Henry's hospital stay as I did when it was Thomas spending his weeks in the NICU. But days like today when I could go to the hospital and spend time with Henry, but instead choose to stay home with the rest of my family are a terrible balancing act. I need to weigh Thomas and Anna's need for time with me against Henry's need to have me there with him, bringing him pumped milk, holding him skin-to-skin, and hearing my voice. I can't be at the hospital every day, especially not while I am depending on someone else to drive me there and pick me up. But today I am choosing to stay home. Peter could load the kids into the car, make the 25 minute drive to the hospital, bring everyone home and then reverse the process to pick me up in a few hours. But instead we are here, just hanging out.

We'll go tomorrow and I won't be able to go Tuesday. Wednesday I'll go, but I don't know what is happening on Thursday and Friday. And I don't know what will happen when my Helpers go back to their work and I'm home caring for Thomas and Anna again during the day. I'll most likely drive to the hospital in the evenings.

This will only last a few more weeks (Five more? Maybe?) before we are all able to be home together. I'm so glad I won't always have to make decisions about who needs me most. At least not every day.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Re-Entry

Henry is still doing very well. He is breathing all on his own now, is maintaining his own body temperature, and is digesting the food they are giving him. They are feeding him what breastmilk I am able to pump and are making up the difference with formula. I'm a pumping fool, but I'm just not putting out that much in volume. I expect that in the next few days I'll start having an increase in output, but it's only hope that makes me think I'll be able to express more with Henry than I was able to with Thomas. If you have pumping tricks or tips, I'd be glad to hear them. For some reason I've never been one of those women who have stockpiles of breastmilk languishing in their freezers. I make some, but never enough to meet demand. Why is this?

I've been home for a day and a half now. I think it would be easier if our kitchen (and house) weren't all torn up for the remodel. I know there are only two more weeks left before it's done, but the whiny part of me hates that it's torn up now when I'm so fresh from bed rest and surgery. In two weeks I'll be feeling much better and it will matter less that I have to go up stairs to refill my water bottle. For now, I'm learning to deal with it as it is and to cope. Peter has been feeling overwhelmed with the added domestic responsibilities he's had the past seven weeks and so he has less energy to do some things for me. He'll do them; he's just less cheerful about it. Normally this would be fine, but I'm an emotional, hormonal mess on narcotics, so instead of being understanding I feel a little slighted.

The kids are delighted that I'm home again. I'm sure you can imagine. Anna didn't quite know what to make of me at first, but Thomas saw me this morning and cried out, "Mommy!" as though he were waking from a wonderful dream to find that it was really real. I felt like I was on Little House on the Prairie. It was a great feeling. I'm having a hard time keeping up with their energy, but it's still very, very good to be back with them again.

On another note, do any of you know anything about retaining water in your feet and ankles after delivery? I seriously have Hobbit feet. They are unrecognizable as human appendages. I want to know when they will go away. I can't even see my ankle bones anymore. If this coninutes, you'll be able to float me above Macy's parade on Thanksgiving Day!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Baby Mine

I can't wait until I get home so I can post an updated picture of Henry. He is so beautiful.

I got to hold him on my chest last night when I came to visit. They've taken him off of that clunky breathing machine and now he's on a low-pressure nose-prong type device that gives the least amount of breathing assistance. I like it much better because it's less intrusive and seems much more comfortable for him to wear.

Now that he has a smaller tube I can actually see his little face! They took off the hat he had been wearing and I've been able to see that he has a fair bit of dark, wavy hair, too. His face is wrinkly and he looks like a teeny little old man. He is so sweet.

In somewhat related news, they are holding the Republican National Convention just a couple of blocks from the hospital we are staying in. I'm discharged tomorrow (ack! Who will take care of me now?) so for the next week I will have a very hard time getting back here to spend time with Henry, when I am able to come at all. I'll have driving restrictions for two weeks as I recover from surgery.

I think that most of our friends and family who have been coming to care for the kids are going to continue to come to help out as I recover. Can I begin to tell you how lucky I am? It is hard to swallow your pride when you first begin to really depend on other people to help you. It is hard to realize that you simply cannot do what needs to get done on your own. But when you move past that, you are nothing but grateful that you have people who love you so much and who are able to give you the help that you need. We have all of these people who have helped us freely with no expectation of repayment. What more can a person want in their life but such wonderful people like these? Henry is so fortunate to have such a group of people waiting to welcome him home.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Welcome, Baby!


I'd like to introduce you to our newest little one. Meet Henry Steven Edstrom. He was born last evening at 5pm and weighs 3 lbs 9 oz.

He was breech, so of course he needed to come via cesarean section. Everything went well and he cried when he was born. He was just beautiful. Even though he was breathing at his birth, they still opted to put him on a cpap machine so that he wouldn't get too tired out trying to breathe. He didn't need to be put on a ventilator or anything like that--hooray! He is doing very well, especially for a 30 week baby.

I know the picture looks a little scary with the breathing mask and the IV board on his hand and all of the other tubes and tape. Believe me, though, that he is doing an amazing job. He's moving quite a bit and is even opening his eyes for us when we're in the room talking to him. I only wish we could spend more time with him, but it's hard for me to be up and out of bed for very long.

I just wanted to stop in and share our good news. I want to thank you all for your prayers, kind wishes, and support during this difficult time. You have no idea how your comments and emails have cheered and encouraged me.

Now we wait and hope for a speedy and trouble-free stay in the NICU!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Waiting

My days left in the hospital are numbered.

Last night there was a bit of green discharge which looked like meconium in my fluid. The doctor on call ordered an IV, no food or fluids, and for me to be monitored for six hours--from six until midnight. I'm afraid I disgraced myself when the IV person tried three times to dig a needle into my vein. By the third time she was trying unsuccessfully to put it in my hand, I started crying for her to stop. They got another person to come in and she took two stabs before it got put in. It took quite a while before I was able to settle myself down. It was overwhelming to have to be continuously monitored, with an IV, and not even water to drink.

By midnight I was off the monitor--baby looked fine--and I was finally able to sleep. At six the doctor wanted me to spend another two hours on the monitor, so the sleep was short-lived.

This morning Peter and the kids came for a visit, which is lucky, I suppose, since my white blood cell counts came back elevated and indicating that an infection is brewing. Peter was able to talk to the doctor who is rounding today and hear that we might be delivering the baby today, or maybe not. Right now we don't know what will happen for sure since they want to continuously monitor the baby to see how he or she is doing. If no other signs of infection appear and baby is doing well, they will probably leave the baby in a while longer. If it seems like baby is in distress at all, they will deliver the little one today. Either way, my hospital stay just got a lot less pleasant.

I'll be 30 weeks tomorrow.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Six Weeks of Bed Head

I've been in Hospital de la Casa for six weeks now awaiting the impending arrival of Baby Nuevo. Obviously, I am still pregnant. I really want to make it to 30 weeks, which happens on Thursday. After a night like last night, I know to keep my goals modest for a while.

I didn't sleep much last night because I kept having uncomfortable contractions that woke me up. Finally, around four in the morning I gave up on sleep and watched the clock for a while. I was having contractions every ten to fifteen minutes. I thought about calling my nurse, but I didn't know what to ask for and I didn't know what to expect her to do. She might have hooked me up to the monitor, but it's always been poor at picking up my contractions in the past. In the end I went back to sleep and woke up at 6:45. The contractions seem to have settled down again, though my uterus feels sore from all of the activity. I wish the doctor I saw yesterday were on rounds again today because I'd like to ask her what she thinks these contractions are doing. It seems strange that after all of these weeks post-rupture that I would suddenly go into labor without any other symptoms of infection. The doctor rounding today is a doctor I have never met before so I think I need to proceed with caution when discussing the contractions. I don't want anyone to overreact and operate before we absolutely have to. The baby's heart rate looked good on the monitor this morning, so I don't see any reason to panic per se, but I have concerns.

Really, all I want is the doctor to say it's no big deal and that we need to "wait and see".

I wish I knew how this is all going to end. It would save me a great deal of worry in the meantime. In this case, doctors don't seem to have many answers, but if this one has an interesting opinion, apart from "wait and see", I'll let you know after he's done with his visit.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Highs and Lows

I realize the day isn't half over, but I thought I would share a high and a low of my day so far.

Low: Though I am not a wildly fit person, my calf muscles are normally very tone. Today I noticed that even when I flex my calf muscles they are still soft and mushy. Atrophy: Achieved.

High: I had my daily meeting with one of the specialists who is rounding the unit today. She is one of the more conservative (though not pessimistic) doctors I've had. She said that based on how I've been doing so far, she thinks I could be one of those who goes on to 34 weeks. I know I've had other doctors share that speculation, but it was a more impressive comment coming from this doctor. Of course, it doesn't mean that I will go on to 34, or even 32, weeks, but it was an encouraging thing to hear.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Treats

If you're going to spend a lot of time alone, laying in a hospital bed, I think that treats are an integral part of managing monotony and boredom. There's nothing better than a visitor and there's nothing beats a visitor bearing gifts.

Here are some things people have brought that have made my days better:

  • cups of really good coffee like Caribou or Starbucks
  • a box of fancy Tazo tea
  • yarn
  • Aveda bath products
  • yarn and pattern kits
  • clean pillowcases
  • books and magazines
  • food and snacks
  • candy
Sometimes I have to buy my own books or yarn or treats, and it's almost as good, but I love when people thoughtfully bring things that cheer me up when their visit is done. No matter how much my friends and family enjoy visiting, no one wants to move in with me!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

29 Weeks and Contractions

Today is Week 29 for our baby and I think I've been noticing some changes in my pregnancy. This last week I've been having some lower abdominal cramping--not like the normal crampy feeling you'd expect during your period, but more like my uterus is getting irritated by holding a growing baby with little to no fluid to cushion his or her movements. I've also been noticing more Braxton-Hicks type contractions. They aren't real contractions, per se, but I've definitely noticed my body "working out" like it would if I were having a normal pregnancy. I wouldn't be surprised to find that my cervix has been changing this week, though, of course, it is difficult for the doctors to check.

I'd been mentioning this off and on to my nurses in a low-key manner, but this morning I mentioned it to my nurse in a "yes, I've been having contractions" kind of way and it set off a lot more activity than I had anticipated. I tried to explain that I have been having these all week and that they hadn't gotten particularly stronger, just a little more frequent. They nearly prepped me for surgery. They wheeled in the IV, talked about restricting my food and drink, and drew a few blood samples. Honestly, they can do whatever they want, but I don't want to have to wear an IV while they "wait and see" what my body does. They are painful to get, painful to wear, and awkward to haul around. I was scared. I really didn't want one. And I really didn't want to have to have surgery or the baby today! As resigned as I am to the inevitability of a Cesarean, I was terrified at the idea of being wheeled in to the operating room and being prepped for surgery. It was a terribly lonely feeling.

When my doctor came in to talk, I emphasised that I had been having these contractions for a few days now and that they weren't any stronger, just a little more frequent, blah, blah, blah, back-pedal, down-play, minimize. In the end, she seemed to think that we could wait a bit longer before beginning any actions that would prepare me to deliver. I was so relieved.

I'm feeling better now, though I wish Peter could come up this afternoon and sit with me for a while. Of course, he can't and I won't ask, but sometimes I get very tired of having to do this alone. All of the wonderful support and help we've gotten around the house, with meals and with the kids only walks me so far down this path. It seems I need to go the rest of the way by myself. Even though I have accepted the fact that Peter most likely will miss the actual delivery of this baby, I didn't think being alone would bother me so much.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Television

So, how many hours of Law & Order can a person watch before contemplating a life of crime or a life of solitude in the Alaskan wilderness?

Whatever the answer to this question is, I'm approaching that limit.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Knitted Bullet of Love



This is a picture of the first pair of socks I've ever knit. I finished them for Peter because I think he misses me. He assures me that they actually fit, but I'm waiting to see if he wears them more than once. I have high hopes. If you're an interested knitter, I used Trekking XXL sock yarn and the basic sock recipe from Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's book Knitting Rules. I can't get enough of that woman's writing.

It's funny--you'd think that with all of this "time off" to knit I'd be stocking up on little knitted things for the baby! I'm thinking of the longies, the sweaters, the bonnets, the booties, the inevitable baby blanket, but, no. I'm not knitting for the baby much at all. I have a pattern and a sweater's worth of yarn all ready to go, but I feel like I have to finish some socks for the kids before I can really feel free to start on the sweater. I wanted to finish some mittens for them, too. It's hard to knit for the baby when I'm missing Thomas and Anna and Peter so much. For some reason, my concern for Baby Nuevo isn't translating into little woolies. For some reason, it smacks of over-confidence to me. It's as though casting on for a sweater or blanket is like driving my stake into the ground and declaring that there WILL most certainly be a baby and that the baby will need KNITWEAR! I'm not sure I'm ready to committ to that level of confidence yet.

Also, logic dictates, if the baby were born anytime soon, the baby would be in the NICU for many, many weeks, leaving me with ample time to 1) Recover from the surgery (the baby is breech and unlikely to turn again) and to 2) knit for the baby while at home looking after Thomas and Anna. In addition to this, logic also tells me that if the baby isn't coming until 34 weeks (please, God!), I have weeks and weeks to knit before the baby will be needing clothes of any kind, much less knitwear! So, I'm putting it off.

I'm going to whip out a pair of socks for Anna and a pair for Thomas in the next couple of days and after that I'm going to suck it up and knit a sweater for the new baby. I'm looking forward to it, even though it is a nervous first step. There is a slight chance that I've been over thinking this whole thing a little bit, too. After nearly five weeks on hospital bed rest, I suppose it's natural to get a little nutty about something.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Milestone

Bed rest is making this pregnancy seem longer than it is.

With Thomas I carefully tracked the days and weeks before his due date. I couldn't wait for my new baby to arrive. It seemed like December would never come. Of course, when it did come, it didn't matter since Thomas had been born two months prior.

Anna's pregnancy breezed by. Apart from progesterone injections and regular OB appointments, I had a young toddler to distract me and I would look at the calendar and think, "Wow! Thirty weeks already!"

This pregnancy started out that way. It began so well and was progressing at such a nice pace. The last four and a half weeks have brought Time to a grinding, moaning crawl. It's taken this long, but I've finally made it to the first--the FIRST!--big milestone.

I am 28 weeks pregnant today.

It's taken long enough. At 28 weeks the survival rates are very high and complication rates are very low. There would still be some problems and certainly some Respiratory Distress Syndrome and the baby would most likely need very invasive breathing assistance, as least for a few days. But at this point, the doctors would be pretty cheerful if little Baby Nuevo had to be born now. I wouldn't be, but that's beside the point. The real upside to this is that I'm not having a baby today. So hopefully the picture gets even better from here.

The real bright spot for me is the meeting I had with one of the specialists who came around yesterday. I haven't seen her since the day after my water broke and I was struck by her pretty first name--Helen--and by her wild optimism. She said then that she thought they could keep me here for ten weeks before the baby would be delivered. When she came yesterday she asserted that she believed that I'd make it until 32 to 34 weeks and that they'd have to do a c-section to get the baby out. She had a lot of very technical reasons why she thought that, but I'll tell you the truth--most of it went over my head. I hope she's right!

It's amazing the variety of estimates there are as to how long I'm expected to be here. I can only assume that it's because some doctors tend to be much more conservative than others, but I don't really know why. I'm thinking of starting a betting pool for my visitors and staff. I'll put a calender on the wall and they can write their estimates on it and whomever is closest can win something cool. Like a cheesecake.

The important thing for now is that I'm still pregnant. My fluid levels are very low and sometimes that depresses me, but there's nothing I can do about it. I'll leak while lying on my back, perfectly still. What more could a person do? The baby is transverse breech now and so I think that I leak more now that the baby's head isn't "plugging the exit", so to speak. I just hope the doctors don't get nervous about how low my fluid levels are and decide to section me earlier than necessary.

I'll keep you updated.

For now I have another ultrasound to look forward to in an hour, plus my brother is coming up to bring me a Chipolte burrito. So much to do, so little time.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

27 Weeks

I'm twenty-seven weeks pregnant today and I think that it's ok to relax a tiny, tiny bit.

The neonatologist came by yesterday to give me the run-down of what we can expect from a baby born between 27 and 28 weeks. Having had a preemie before, I'm not too mislead by rainbow colored pictures of high survival rates and a hopefully smooth NICU stay, but he was very optimistic. Every day the baby stays inside the womb is huge and the first few days after birth (if the baby were to be born today, which he won't) could still bring a lot of surprises, but overall things are promising. To summarize, if the Peanut were born today--which he or she won't be--they would expect him to survive. Chances of complications are relatively low and we could expect the baby to grow normally and to be like other children. The baby would be in the NICU for a long time, but could probably have a relatively uneventful stay, Respiratory Distress Syndrome aside.

All that said, the longer I stay pregnant the greater our chances are of a happy, sunshine-type ending. But it is reassuring to know that we are leaving the Danger Zone where the chances of Baby's survival are NOT so high and our chances of complications are greater. And since I don't have plans to give birth today, or maybe even tomorrow, I feel like I have the luxury to focus on the positive side of this. We have come a looooong way in the last three weeks. And whatever happens, I need to remember--I NEED to remember--that what we will get is vastly better than what I was expecting when I first walked into the hospital. I will most likely (the misleading promises of statistics aside) be bringing home a healthy baby instead of trying to figure out how to plan a funeral. I am already blessed.

Of course, I am still hanging onto the hope of reaching 34 weeks. This is the Olympics of Pregnancy and there's no point in competing if you're hoping to just cross the finish line. There is honor in that, to be sure, but I'm competing for the gold medal. It makes me laugh a little because it is entirely out of my control. It's a big job, however, and I like me a silly metaphor.

I will end this ridiculously upbeat post by saying that I am sick of the smell of amniotic fluid and if I never smell it again, it will be too soon.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Week Three and Some Knitting

I've been in the hospital on bed rest for three weeks now and I don't have anything more to say about it that is interesting. Basically, most of my comments can be reduced to sniff, sniff, whine, moan, complain, and some more sniffing. Oh--and my hips hurt. The staff at the hospital has been fantastic. They have made me feel very cared for and everyone is extremely competent at their job. I hope to be here for a long time still, so this is very important.

Already I have been here for a marathon of time and by the end of this I hope to be able to compete at Bed Rest on an Olympic level. If I can make it to 34 weeks, I'll get a gold medal and maybe some diamonds. There may be product endorsements as well and I will be anticipating calls from Motherhood Maternity as they search for a spokesmom for their Pajama Line. I'll go on tour and sign nursing bras. It'll be great.

That said, I'm going to move onto knitting.

You'll need to use your imagination to some extent since I don't have my camera available. When possible I'll try to provide links to patterns, though, to assist you.

So far I've knit both of the kids a pair of mittens. I wanted something small and fast that I could knit up so that they would have something soft to hold that I had made just for them. They LOVE it when I knit them things so this absolutely thrilled them. I made Anna's from some leftover pink and lime colored yarn Rachel gave me and Thomas and I ordered some Knit Picks kettle dyed Wool of the Andes in the Ivy colorway. I really, really like that yarn. Anna's been sleeping with her mittens "just in case it snows". How adorable is that?

I have knit no fewer than four (!) baby bonnets. I have no idea what got into me. None. But I have to thank Knittymama for mentioning this pattern on her website because it provided me with days of knitted entertainment. I used some Misti Alpaca for one hat in a nice silvery grey color. It was an alpaca/silk blend and it's so soft--just right for a preemie. I used Nature Spun yarn for the other three. I made two in green and one in navy blue. Now I just need to find baby heads that can wear them! My baby will only have one head (or so the ultrasound techs tell me) so there really is no call for the other hats. One went home with Kate, but I think I'll send the other one home with her, too, since it's in a larger size and may fit litte Meg better when winter comes.

I am currently working on a pair of socks for Peter. I'm using some Trekking XXL yarn that I got from a craft store that was going out of business. I am not a sock knitter. I want to be, but I worry too much that I'll put all of that work into a pair of socks that won't fit. This isn't my first attempt, but I hope it will be at least marginally successful. I really want Peter to like them. More than that, I just want him to be able to wear them! I'm worried already that they'll be too tight. I'm using the Basic Sock recipe from Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's book Knitting Rules.

Next on the list is the Bunny Blanket Bunny that you can find on Ravelry and also on Lion Brand's website. This one, I'm making for the baby. It should be a very quick knit so that I can move on to a baby sweater for the little one. I'm very excited about the sweater. I had been looking and looking for a pattern to knit and couldn't find anything. I wanted something simple and gender-neutral, but couldn't find anything that suited me. Then Allison sent me a care package with the perfect pattern and the most beautiful yarn for a little baby sweater! Now I have the skeins sitting in my room at the hospital so I can give them a squeeze now and then. The yarn is organic cotten with a soft, peaceful color. It's so nice and just the thing for a little baby. I have to resisit the urge to knit a great, big sweater for what is certain to be a very little baby.

I'm rounding the corner toward week 27. I feel like I'm chasing down every day and pounding it into the ground as I move past. It's slow work, making a baby. There aren't any shortcuts.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Book List

So, read any good books lately?

When you have little more than time on your hands you find that you are suddenly able to read all of those books that you always meant to read. So, what have I been reading? Not much. At least, I haven't been reading much compared to the quantity of books I used to devour when I was in peak reading condition.

So far I've read two more books in the Amelia Peabody series: The Snake, The Crocodile, and the Dog by Elizabeth Peters and The Last Camel Died at Noon by the same author. If you like murder mysteries and interesting characters, I really recommend this series. They aren't gory or frightening, but they are a fun, light read and they're very well written. The author really pulls you into the story.

A friend gave me a copy of Kabul Beauty School after she found out I was on bed rest for a few weeks. I don't know if I can say much for the author's writing ability, but she has an absolutely unique story to tell. An American hair stylist travels to Afghanistan to open a beauty school. She hopes that by teaching young women a skill and how to run a business that she can help these women become more independent and less at the mercy of the often abusive patriarchal families and society that they live in. I read this book in a day. If you can find a copy used, it's worth your time to read. Other books I've read in the same vein are Reading Lolita in Tehran and Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women. I find the lives of women in these societies to be very interesting and often frightening. I've always been a "good girl" and in the Middle East it seems very difficult to walk the line. Even when women are "behaving" themselves, they are still at the whim of the men in their lives and their society.

The next book I have in line is The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Friedman. This author is one of my favorite columnists for the New York Times and I heard part of an interview he gave on NPR (or was it MPR?) after this book was released. He has a lot to say and he articulates it very well.

Up next: Stuff I Have Knit. You'll be wanting to know what's been flying off my needles lately as well as what's lined up next. At least I know the other knitters out there will be interested! And I need a break from thinking about my uterus.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Pink

Who knew that pink could be such a frightening color?

Yesterday afternoon my body started producing some pinkness along with my typical fluid "output" and the result was understandably alarming. I was as worried and scared as I've been since this whole thing began. My nurse didn't seem too concerned about it, but there isn't much in the way of reassuring news to be had in this situation. I called Peter to let him know about the change and I thought of calling my friend, but didn't want to cry on the phone. As long as everything stays the same with my condition, I'm mostly fine, but any change brings the uncertainty and risk of the situation to the surface and I end up a mass of nerves. It's cruelly unfair that even at a time like this, I am still not permitted a glass of whiskey.

One of my super-specialist doctors came on his rounds this morning and was very reassuring. I could continue to spot like this throughout the rest of my pregnancy and that it has a lot to do with having low fluid levels. Apparently amniotic fluid, among many other things, keeps your uterus from getting irritated and scuffed up by your big, wiggly baby. When you don't have much, well, irritation and scuffing ensues. It has nothing to do with how well the pregnancy is going--high-risk factors aside. Of course, it can mean that your cervix is dilating and that you are going into labor, but my lack of regular contractions suggests that this is not the case. I stand reassured.

It is amazing to me how some people have this natural ability to reassure, comfort, and encourage and others, no matter how well intentioned, simply do not. It is a gift, and I'm glad to see it's not as rare as I once thought.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Week 26

I've finally hit one of the smaller milestones that the neonatal doctors like to see when you're on antepartum. Twenty-six weeks! At twenty-four or twenty-five they smile a little and say things like, "Well, the survival rates aren't so bad. . ." and then proceed to tell you not to go into labor for a couple more weeks. At twenty-six they start sounding a little more cheerful about your baby's prospects. I imagine that when we hit twenty-eight they might actually throw a party for me. But I need to remember not to get ahead of myself. Twenty-six. My baby is at twenty-six.

I had my weekly ultrasound today and the baby looked well. The screen showed my baby in black and white, clearly using his or her little diaphragm to practice breathing motions. I am very low on fluid since I spent the last two days leaking heavily. But the doctors don't seem too concerned since babies are continually making more fluid. I haven't leaked any fluid yet today so perhaps Baby Nuevo is working on building up more reserves. Despite the positive news, I'm getting tired of going through all of these tests alone. During a normal pregnancy, I have no problems going to the prenatal appointments by myself (if going with small children is really going by yourself), but now that things have taken a downturn, I wish I could have Peter here to be with me while I wait to find out how our baby is doing. I spend so much time alone and I am pretty good at it, but there are times when I really would like to have someone hold my hand. I'm not scared, much, and I'm not worried, most of the time. But I feel the lack of the comfort Peter brings to most situations.

All that said, I'm going to enjoy the small victory that two and a half weeks in the hospital has brought me. And I'm going to knit another baby hat.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Week Two

I've been in the hospital on bed rest for two weeks now. I cannot believe it's been so long already. I cannot believe that I have so many weeks left to go. It's amazing that time can go so fast and still move so slowly.

My family seems to have settled into a schedule of care-providers with people coming on their regular days. As time moves on, I think the kids will be able to anticipate who will be taking care of them on a particular day. Thomas and Anna are excited to come visit me in the evenings and they seem happy enough when it is time to leave, though we do need to add the incentive of walking past the nursery window so they can see the new babies on the way to the car. Everything seems to be working out.

After two weeks in bed, hospital life (and food) is starting to loose its charm. The past two days have found me with moments of irritability and impatience. I am beginning to dislike waiting for people to do things for me. I've gotten over the awkwardness of having to call a nurse for a cup of water and now I'm occasionally grumpy because calling a nurse means I have to wait for something I used to be able to do for myself. I have more sympathy for small children who have to wait for someone to do almost everything for them. Oh, the convenience of fulfilling your own needs! At least I can use the bathroom on my own.

I am hoping this moodiness will pass. I find that being grumpy only makes me more irritable since this attitude is unfamiliar to me. I just want to be my normal, cheerful self.

I am very good at entertaining myself. I have at hand any number of ways to amuse myself including the internet and email, my knitting, and a couple of good books. The TV is little help. It would be worthless if it didn't come with a DVD player. However, after two weeks in bed, I am occasionally finding myself at loose ends for something to do. I'll lay on my side, looking out the window, wishing for something new to brighten my day. Visitors help a great deal, particularly those who are able to come during the day. I have been lucky that I have only had a couple days when I've had no visitors at all. Those were long days indeed, but most days I see Peter and the kids for an hour or so in the evenings. I think the best days are when Rachel or my friend Kate have been able to come for longer visits. I'm not sick so visitors don't tire me out like they would if I were unwell.

So all that is left is to wait. I am always thinking ahead to that future date when this baby will be delivered and we will be able to go home again. I have mid-September fixed in my mind as my goal, though I know that for me at least it could be sooner. I would love it if my baby could go home with me, but I don't see that this could happen. Part of the challenge is not knowing when I can expect the end to come or what it will look like for the baby when it finally gets here. It's almost like Alfred Hitchcock wrote my script for the next few weeks.

I think that the only thing for it is to find another hobby. Rock collecting and metal detecting are out, of course. Figure skating won't do, either. Any ideas?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Small News: Updated

I had an interesting meeting with one of the super-specialists who was on rounds yesterday.

He said that of women who rupture early most of them will deliver in about a week. Of the rest, there is no telling when they will deliver, but that a lot of them seem to hang on to about 32 weeks. Amazing! This is just what I've been wanting to know, but no one has been able to tell me. Of course, most doctors don't want to be this specific because I can still deliver at any time and I'm sure they don't want me to be upset if I'm expecting to carry the baby to 32 weeks and end up delivering at 28. But it's a little reassuring to know that hoping to carry to 32 weeks isn't outside the realm of possibility. I'm still hoping for a 34 week miracle, but you take what you get in situations like these.

I'm still praying every day for God's help in holding off infection and for grace and comfort for my family. I've been smacked around by statistics in the past and I don't put much confidence in them*. But I'll take reassurance where I can find it and yesterday I was happy to find a doctor that brought some with him.


*My uncle always jokes about how he doesn't care what the statistics are. Even if you have a 99% chance of not having something bad happening, if it does happen, your chances are exactly 100% that it will.

Update: Also, I haven't leaked any more fluid for a day and a half. This is also good news. I'll probably leak again, but it's good to know that I'm holding on, for a while at least, to the new fluid that is being made.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Short List

I'm still pregnant! And I've hit the 25 week mark. Good news, indeed, though there is still a very long way to go.

I was brushing my teeth this morning and it occurred to me that I could be brushing my teeth at that hospital sink for the next two months. For some reason it struck me as an impossible amount of time. I can imagine being here through the weekend, but it seems amazing to think of how long I could be here by the time the baby arrives. I suppose if I were to spend that whole time brushing my teeth it would seem longer than it has to. Oral health is important, but you could carry a good thing too far.

In any case, I bring an offering to you today. Peter came by last night for a visit and we had a chance to compile a Short List of potential baby names for the Peanut. I'll preface this list by saying that Peter is an impossible person to name babies with. He usually rejects most names and of the names he'll agree to add to "The List", many of those don't make a second cut. But then, if I bring a previously rejected name to the table a second time, he'll profess an affection for it and it will be put on the list. Naming children with Peter is not for the faint of heart. Luckily, I think our situation is sitting heavily on him so he was able to put himself to the task of sorting names with more seriousness. We have an uncertain amount of time to fool around with this. I think that we may have an actual list.

So without further ado:

Baby Names

Girls

Nora (I've loved this name for a long time and I think Peter might finally be warming to it)
Eleanor (gotta love the historical/fictional background)
June (this is Peter's favorite, I think)
Charlotte
Beatrice (nothing cuter than a little girl called "Bea")

Boys

Henry
Carl
Joseph (I have some concerns about having a Thomas and a Joe--one full name and one nickname, but if we go with it, I don't think that the asymmetry will bring the house down)
Leo (a previously rejected name that Peter now likes. we have some friends with a Theo, but I think this will be ok)

So, I feel better now. Even if I don't have a lot of time left to ponder these names, at least we'll have something manageable to choose from. Certainly it's better than 35,000 Names for Your Baby. However, I think that I still have a few weeks to consider my possibilities. With so many people remembering me in their prayers, how can I have anything but hope?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Good News Is. . .

I'm still pregnant.

The baby turns 25 weeks old on Thursday, which is good news, too. And I'm still pregnant.

Complete hospital bedrest is a strange thing. I get to stay in bed all day, watch what movies I like and have people who bring me glasses of cold water. I've had a healthy portion of company most days (those are the good days) and I get plenty of peace and quiet. But it's driving me a little crazy that I have to be here and that my children are missing me at home. I wish there was some way I could make this easier for them. I wish I could make it easier on Peter.

That said, I am strongly hoping that I get to be pregnant for a long, long time still. I honestly cannot imagine what it will be like after five, seven, nine more weeks of this strange new life, but for now, I've got one week down already. If I can keep from getting an infection, I will have many more weeks to go.

I'm hoping that tomorrow night Peter and I will have a little quiet time to go over all of your excellent Baby Name Suggestions and that I will get to post our List. I really appreciated all of your thoughtful ideas. I can't wait until we have a solid short list of names to think about!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Bring Home Baby List

I have been gradually realizing over the past few days that I am not ready for a new baby yet. Surprised? Don't misunderstand me--I have the little socks and sleepers and the infant car seat as well as a crib, tiny cloth diapers, and a changing pad. But I realized yesterday that nothing is ready yet!

The baby clothes and diapers should be rewashed and brought upstairs, I still want to knit a baby hat for the wee one, and I really should get some long sleeve onsies and t-shirts (preemies use these a lot). This is a lot like the dream where you show up to prom in your nightgown. I'm trying not to panic because no matter when the baby is born there is likely to be at least a short stay in the NICU for him or her and I can prepare things then. But I still get a little worried because I'm not able to be home to do any of the preparations for our impending arrival now.

But all of the little chores that are on my Bring Home Baby list are nothing compared to the item at the top of this list, the only thing that really should be done before the baby is born. We need to pick out a name.

Sure, the cloth dipaers and little sleepers can wait. What does the kid need for the first few days besides a little gown and one pack of disposables? But right after your baby is born, the first thing the nurses ask is "So, does the little guy have a name yet?" Am I supposed to say NO? And then how long do you take to decide? What if a WEEK goes by and your baby still doesn't have a name? This is how kids get named "Precious" or "Goober".

I'm not even sure where to start. We've had a hard time getting even a modest list of names to materialize. Also, I'd like some time to think of a name and live with it for a while. I don't want to have the baby, name it Sparkle (hey! works for a boy OR a girl!) and realize a month later that Sparkle is a stripper's name. We've had the name Eleanor on the list for a while and I like it, but I don't know if I can live with it. Every day. Maybe I'll never get past the "old lady" feel it seems to carry around the edges. Beatrice poses some of the same problems. How about Penelope? There is so much I love about this name, but maybe it's too exotic for a child growing up in the Midwest. Or maybe it doesn't fit with Thomas and Anna's names. Thomas, Anna, and Penelope. Hmm. I am riddled with indecision. We have some names on the list, but there aren't any that jump up and grab my attention in a perfect, pearl-like way. The Boy List is another issue. Instead of a list of names I love 3/4 of the way, I have a list of NOTHING. Ok, we have two names, but, again, I love them 3/4 of the way.

So, what do you think? Want to help name a baby?

If you like, you can give me some of your ideas and in a couple of days I'll post a list of some of our picks. After that, we'll talk some more. It's a Baby Naming Summit Conference and you're all invited. You may dress informally.

If you'd like help with your suggestions, you should know that we like names that are more traditional. Kylee or Harlee probably won't make the cut. Despite the conservative nature of Thomas and Anna's names, we do like names that are more unusual like Beatrice, Penelope, Violet or Maeve. BUT, if it is unusual I like to avoid something that could end up being trendy-ish. This is a concern for me with Beatrice--could Beatrice, in five years, be the next Olivia, Sophia, or Amelia? All of this is subjective, I know, and I'll tell you now that we need more suggestions than less.

Thanks for your help! I hope I won't need to have a name ready for another 9-10 weeks still!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Update

First of all, I want to thank you for all of your prayers and kind thoughts. When I get discouraged, I remember all of the people who are praying for me, my baby, and my family and it encourages me to know that so many people are surrounding us with their care.

I've waited to write anything more in hopes that I might have something more to share, but I'm afraid that life on the ante partum unit is not unlike life anywhere else. No news is good news. I'm still pregnant and the baby seems healthy. We can only wait and see where this is going. There is nothing I can do to help the situation other than to lie very, very still. All day. Every day. As much as I pity Peter's burden in all of this, I can bet you that he doesn't envy me a jot. I had been thinking of this as a version of Mommy Jail, but it occurred to me that even prisoners have recreation programs and physical fitness hours. I do have internet access, however, and someone to bring me water. I wager that the food is about the same, though.

So, here I am, trying to keep my spirits up and not spend too much time worrying about the baby or how things are going at home. Luckily, I know the kids are being well cared for by family and friends. They have been able to be with people they know and with whom they are comfortable. We are trying to keep them home most of the time, so that they can have some stability and structure to their lives. The person making them the peanut butter sandwich might change, but at least they will be home.

The great irony in this, of course, is that our kitchen is still set to be demolished on July 28th. So, even though they will be home, our house is going to change a great deal. At least they will be there to see the changes happen as the work progresses. It won't be too great a shock if they are there to watch and understand what is happening. I'm afraid that for me it will be more like falling asleep in the car and not knowing where I am when I wake up when I finally am able to go home again.