Friday, July 24, 2015

The Day This Happened

So yesterday, of the pages I follow on Facebook, Upworthy, shared this article. Well, I posted my thoughts about everything a while ago. (Read it here. I can't guarantee how well it's written. It was a while ago.) But honestly, this article didn't surprise me in the least! A lot of people don't realize that foster families are on state assistance (welfare). And now, state assistance has a time clock. You're only allowed to collect for so long. Also, they try to HELP YOU get a job. AND if you are supposed to get child support, guess what? You don't get but a portion of it. The money that the person paying the child support sends in goes to pay back your cash assistance! (This is the way it works in my state.) Every month I get a "disregard" check (or checks as the way things have been going) just to say that the kids' father has paid his child support.

The idea of drug testing welfare recipients isn't new. It comes and goes. But now, some states have actually started doing it. Arizona has only found THREE PEOPLE who tested positive. REALLY? This doesn't surprise me. I commented as much on the article.

Well, as of last check (after this screen shot was grabbed), my comment had 2,500+ likes on Facebook. (Facebook quit notifying me of the likes once it reached 1500.) But then I noticed that there were over 200 REPLIES to my comment. I've skimmed them, but not really followed it. It's essentially become a comment war complete with memes! Here are some of the ones that I CAN share. There was a Star Trek: TNG one and a Star Wars one that I loved, but I'm not going to share because they aren't exactly family friendly. Though I do have to say, I LOVE the House snark one!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Dental Visit

This past week, we visited the dentist. This was like the 2nd time for Little Man and the first time for Princess. Yes, I know the recommendations are either 6 months old or when their first tooth erupts, depending upon who you talk to. But I just have a real issue with trying to convince a BABY to try and do the whole "open mouth" thing.

Little Man went last year and this year, we had to have the dental check for school. His mouth is like mine: basic. Essentially it means that he may not end up having a whole lot of cavities. (YAY!) But it also means that he may have to experience the dreaded "deep clean" at some point. (BOO!) But not any time soon! Anyway, Little Man's check went great! He has no cavities and the dentist even said that sometime within the next 6 months to a year that the tooth fairy may be visiting! He did note that Little Man had a couple of canker sores. I expected that. We had one down on the bottom of his teeth that he had caused. We know the drill: warm salt water!

Then it was Princess's turn. We did a "knee-to-knee" exam where she sat in my lap then I laid her backwards so the dentist could see in her mouth, albeit upside down. She actually did really well, considering. There wasn't much screaming and no crying, which was good!

We go back in October for Little Man to get his teeth cleaned (they do one thing at a time to build up trust). And we'll see what Princess will allow then!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Ultrasound Day

Dr. H has been wanting a renal ultrasound on Princess for a while. It's pretty standard. She wants to check for calcium deposits (i.e. kidney stones) since Princess is possibly prone to them. Well, not wanting to subject the poor screaming child to any more issues, I consulted with Dr. K after our last EpicFail! of an appointment with him. He also wanted an echo of Princess's heart. Again, also routine. He's checking to make sure her heart is healing from the damage the hypertension caused. So when I told him about the renal ultrasound, he suggested we come camp at his office and get them both done there! So I let Dr. H know the next time I saw her and came away with orders.

Well, then I had to make the appointment for the ultrasounds! It literally took me 30 minutes to make that appointment! There was some confusion as to whether or not the girl could even schedule the renal ultrasound. Thankfully, Dr. K had already put it in the system. Initially, they didn't want to schedule Princess back to back for the echo and the renal. Apparently, echos "usually" take an hour and renals "usually" take two hours.


I mean, okay, most kids who see Dr. K probably need extensive echos every time. I know her first echo took like FOREVER! And honestly, Dr. K would probably do all the echos himself if he could, but I think he actually trusts his own staff. Hospital staff, maybe not so much. Heck, I'm surprised he doesn't have an app for his phone yet! But then saying that a renal ultrasound is going to take two hours is insane! Her kidneys are the size of walnuts! There's NO WAY it could take two hours!

So after half an hour on the phone, I had the ultrasounds scheduled and a follow up visit to Dr. K scheduled for the next week at his local clinic up here. (His office is about an hour away from where we live.) After I hung up the phone, I felt that I needed to check the appointment we had for Dr. H. It was a good thing I did. It turned out I booked ultrasound day on top of our nephrology clinic day! Can't be at two different specialists in two different towns on the same day! So I was able to move that appointment back a week. It turned out that we would do ultrasound day on Monday and then the following Monday go to Dr. H and the next day go to Dr. K. That worked out!

So that brings us to: ULTRASOUND DAY!

We had to set out early enough to get there by nine. I decided to just keep Princess in her jammies because she would be getting "nakey" when she got there, it didn't make sense to change her clothes.

Waffle in the car on the way.
Once we got there, we waited for a bit and then were finally called back. I'd been prepping her for this by telling her they were going to put lotion on her tummy. Thankfully this kid LOVES putting lotion on. She only freaked out a little bit at first, but then chilled out.

Waiting to be called.
The echo was done in Dr. K's ultrasound room. He's set up for kids. Got the bed against the wall, TV in the corner of the room, kid friendly stuff on the walls. Yep, that was easy. I just hopped up there with her and things were fine. She only got a little annoyed after the tech had to switch to a smaller wand, but we were almost done by that time.

Waiting on the echo to begin.
Then we got moved to the other side of the building to do the renal ultrasound. Yeah, that room is so NOT set up for kids! But we made due with the tablet and she was fine with more "lotion" and just chilling watching "The Chica Show." (Thank God for WiFi!)

Holding Tinky Nee while getting her kidneys checked.
After we finished, she decided she wanted to get dressed in the waiting room and not in the ultrasound room. Gee, thanks kid for making me out to be the weird parent dressing her kid in the waiting room! And then she ONLY wanted to put on her "skinny jeans" and wore her Doc shirt home.

On the way home! We had to get something to drink and she shared it with Tinky Nee!
All told, it took about an hour to do both ultrasounds. Yeah, Dr. K was a little annoyed that they didn't just schedule us to see him after all the goo and scanning, but I was seriously okay with it. After an hour of keeping your two year old busy while they ran slime over her tummy, the last thing either of us wanted to do was see anyone else. We just wanted to go home and hang out, which is what we did!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

We Broke the WIC Mold

WIC. Women, Infants and Children. It's a government subsidized program that has actually been around a long time. They're there to help pregnant women and children from birth to age 5 get proper nutrition. It's an income based program. We've been on it for the past  4 years. Little Man has since "graduated" from the program and I no longer receive vouchers for him. We still have another 2 and a half years with Princess. This is generally a good program, except when it comes to my children. Leave it to me to have the odd balls!

Okay, Little Man wasn't so much of an odd ball. The only issue they had with him was that he is built like a linebacker! He's been in the 95th percentile for his weight since he was 4 months old. At that time, he was also in the 95th percentile for his length too. We weren't on WIC then. When he was about 2, we had moved and I actually applied for WIC. Their income guidelines are quite high, so a lot of people with young children will qualify. Okay, so things were fine with him until he started getting out of the 95th percentile for his height. That was when the WIC person would look at me. Before she could say anything about it, I would always say, "His pediatrician isn't concerned." Yeah, they're trying to make sure these kids aren't "obese." Yeah, well, Little Man is active. He plays outside, runs around. We don't eat out a lot. There's no problem with him. He's just one of those built kids.

Then I got pregnant with Princess. Okay, things were fine, until I had to do the breastfeeding class. Yes, as part of the program, you have to do classes. Most of them have been okay, up until this point. I was never able to breastfeed Little Man. He wouldn't latch. He was tongue tied and we didn't find out until he was 6 months old! Okay, well, when I got pregnant with Princess, my intent was to try again. So I went to this class. I HATED it! I mean, okay, breastfeeding is best and it's WAY cheaper for WIC because they will provide formula if you can't breastfeed, but talk about breastfeeding propaganda. They gave you the whole line that breastfeeding actually makes your child smarter. (There's actually been no real proof to that because there hasn't been long-term studies on long-term breastfed kids.) I mean, okay, I get that it does help your child's immunity and you tend to bond with your child (you can actually bond with a bottle fed child too people!) and all of that good stuff, but there was NO mention of "Breastfeeding is hard!" or "If you can't do it, don't worry, we'll still help you!" or even "It's okay to pump and give your baby a bottle of breast milk."

Okay, so I was willing to let this one class go. No big deal. It was just one class of the about 5 others that I'd done.

Well, then Princess was born premature. Thankfully WIC was there with a pump so I could pump breast milk for Princess. Granted, they weren't always the most supportive lactation consultants when they would call. (I had two consultants calling me at various times, one from WIC and one from the hospital.) But, I kept at it, until I began to realize I was depressed. I felt like a dairy cow. (Oh, they don't tell you that in the class!) Had to go in and milk every day, several times a day. And oddly, it reminded me of how a dairy cow is milked.

Yeah. Kinda like this!
Then Princess developed a milk protein allergy. It was like God was stepping in and saying, "Don't worry, I've got this!" WIC couldn't harp on me for not feeding my child breast milk. She was allergic! Ha! (Okay, I really didn't feel that way at the time, but still!) Okay, so Princess was going to come home on special formula. WIC wouldn't cover it, but the insurance did. Thankfully everything was taken care of!

Then princess was diagnosed with reflux and her pediatrician wanted me to put cereal in her bottles. Oh, the look I got when I mentioned that at WIC! No food until 6 months! Well, then I told them the pediatrician recommended it, even though Princess was only 5 months old and they said, "Oh, well, we could do Enfamil AR. It's already got rice in it!" Um, No. Milk protein allergy, remember? Special formula, remember? This happened when I went to sign in for the "feeding your baby" class. Okay, that class wasn't that bad. They talked about making your own baby food. I'd done that before with Little Man. It's cheaper. WIC on provides so much baby food, so I already knew this was an option. Yeah, it's a little annoying that they are all "No food until 6 months!" attitude. I don't think it really helps with obesity that everyone thinks. In fact, I think it actually helps perpetuate food allergies. (Hey, they want you to introduce eggs earlier now and say that peanuts are probably good to introduce early as well! Just still stay away from the honey until a year.) But okay. I was going to introduce food when Princess was ready, the same way I did with Little Man. WIC would've KILLED me with him because I introduced food (rice cereal on the spoon) at 10 weeks old with him! But he was STARVING and his pediatrician was okay with it.

About this time, we realized that Princess was showing signs of being ready to eat. So we introduced rice cereal on the spoon. She was 5 months old. Not 6 months. Not 9 months/6 adjusted like everyone said I should I do with a preemie. So we tried her in her bouncie seat at MeMe's house. The only bib she had there was a toddler bib so it practically covered ALL of Princess at the time! Oh she loved it!

Shortly after this, Princess was diagnosed with PHA2. We didn't know what it really meant for feeding her, but all I knew was to stay away from the bananas! They were WAY to high in potassium. As for "baby food," well, we hadn't been back to the nephrologist yet to know what to do about that. Well, now I had to go in and actually TALK to WIC and do our 6 month recertification appointment. That was a mess! I got bumped from a regular person to the dietitian. Probably better in the long run, but still annoying to have to wait EVEN LONGER with two kids! Yeah, special formula, a preemie, and a rare diagnosis does not make for a fun appointment with people who deal with NORMAL kids. I got my vouchers after talking with the dietitian and things seemed fine. I found out what NOT to give Princess from the nephrologist's nutritionist and we were off and running trying to find baby food. I still wound up making more than I bought and I NEVER bought bananas!

Then I moved. Well, thankfully, we met the dietitian initially in the new county and got everything handled. And when Princess was told to wait on cow's milk until she was a year adjusted, they did those vouchers without the milk on them! Woohoo! Things seemed fine. Little Man transitioned off shortly after his birthday, so now the cupboards aren't SO overloaded with juice and cereal.

In November at NICU clinic, they were concerned about Princess's weight and asked me to increase her calories. Well, upon researching online about kidney diets and increasing calories, they all said I could increase "free fats." Those are those things that fall into the LITTLE BITTY triangle in the food pyramid. Things like mayonnaise, salad dressings, butter, sugar. Those things you're NOT supposed to have a whole lot of. So that's what I did with Princess. She began to have kool-aid to drink and has since begun to LOVE mayonnaise and ranch dressing!

So what does that have to do with WIC? Well, at our last meeting, I met with one of the regular workers. For one, I found out that they are adjusting Princess's age for her weight and height. I always wondered why they would say she was in the "25th percentile" when everyone else was telling me she was in the "5th percentile." Well, now I know! Anyway, when I mentioned about her weight, they told me that she had gained something like 3lbs since her last certification. I thought that was pretty good. I made some comment about increasing her calories because she'd been more active. Then the  woman went on to say, "Well, as long as you haven't been piling on the butter or mayonnaise on everything." I had to bite my tongue because that was EXACTLY what I had been doing!

Thankfully, WIC has gone to online classes. I hated going to classes with Princess. The breastfeeding one was the worst, but even the "feeding your baby" one was kinda bad. Not in content or anything, but seeing the other babies her age. It was HEARTBREAKING at the time to go to those classes and see these chubby GINORMOUS babies and think about my tiny little peanut. And being I had done some of the other classes when Little Man was on WIC, I knew that most of them wouldn't be applicable to Princess.
  • "How to Read Food Labels." Hm....Figured that one out. Except I'm not looking for fat or sodium content. I'm waiting on the NEW labels to eventually come out. (Hey FDA, can we get on it yet?) What I'm looking for is the amount of potassium in anything and everything! 
  • "Drink Your Water!" Yeah, um, we know that one! Princess can't sweat a whole lot, lest she loses a whole lot of her electrolytes, so she's ALWAYS hydrated! 
  • "WIC Food Recipes." Yeah, okay, my kid can't have the beans or the whole wheat bread/tortillas/brown rice. Or about half the fruits and vegetables. So unless you are teaching something that DOESN'T contain bananas, orange juice, beans, whole grains or tomatoes, I'm not interested.
  • "Eating the Rainbow." Okay, try to eat the rainbow of fruits and veggies when you're not allowed to have some of them. Kinda hard when things like bananas, tomatoes, avocados, winter squash, most melons, and other things like that are off the list of approved items.
So going to an actual "class" was not something I was really looking forward to. Granted, I never mind educating people about Princess's disorder, but being a room full of moms and their healthy children talking about something I can't possibly apply in my household isn't necessarily something I want to go spend an hour of my life doing. Especially when it's something that I would have to drive 20 minutes to and then 20 minutes home from. Now, with the online education, I can just pick something from their list, go through their websites and videos and articles and do my class without having to listen to someone recite what the food pyramid is to me. And then they mail me my checks in the mail. And because she's complex, I have them send me her nutrition survey too. It takes WAY too long to fill out because of her restrictions.

I know WIC is trying their best and it works for most families, but obviously, my family doesn't fit the WIC mold. If I had anything to tell them about ways to improve their program, it would be to show more compassion and understanding to children and families with special feeding needs.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

No More Bottle!

We are now bottle free! Yay! No more bottles! And BOTH my kids did it ON THEIR OWN! They're so smart!

A little background:

Little Man has ALWAYS been built like a linebacker! He's been in the 95th percentile for his weight since he was 4 months old! So at a year old, his pediatrician told me that he needed to give up the bottle. Okay... (I guess this is the new recommendation based on oral health.) Well, thankfully, he did it on his own around right around that time. He still had a binkie (pacifier) that he used until he was about 2, so I wasn't worried.

Now, for Princess. Well, since she was a preemie, it took her a while get the whole "suck, swallow, breathe" thing. She also had a binkie, but gave that up around 6 months old. I think she began to associate it with getting poked (poor kid! Too much sweet-eze and the binkie, I guess). So I wasn't about to take the bottle away from her at a year old. Plus, it helped that her nutritionist wanted her to stay on the formula until she was a year adjusted (one of the FEW things we've EVER done by her adjusted age!). So after she came off the formula, a year ago, I went ahead and let her keep having her bottle of milk at bedtime. It seemed to help her calm down. Yeah, okay, I know you're technically not supposed to let them do that, but you know what, my kid was a NICU baby. It took her long enough to figure it out. I'm not about to take it away from her!

Well, the other night, she was taking her bottle and she was just about done, when she puked it! Oh how I hate puke! Yeah, most people hate puke, but I especially hate puke. Why? Well, it's simple. We've been told by Princess's nephrologist, that if we were ever thinking about giving her Pedialyte, to just go to the ER and have them run a saline drip. Okay, so essentially that means that if she gets ANY KIND of stomach bug, we need to go to the ER and get her electrolytes checked. Thankfully she hasn't need any IVs yet. (She was a SUPER HARD stick in the PICU!) But puke from Princess typically means going to the ER and having them look at me weird. I usually have to drop either the phrase "her cardiologist said..." or "her nephrologist said..." before the nurses start taking me seriously. Otherwise I get looked at like I'm some panicky new mom.

Okay, so back to the bottle. Yes, she puked. I got her cleaned up, changed her sheets (that I had just washed!) and then the poor kid didn't want to sleep on her bed! Why? Because it was blue and not her "Doc Bed." Oh the joys of having a verbal 2 year old! So I got her to sleep, FINALLY, and found pajamas for me that were at least not my clothes just in case I was going to be up all night at the ER with her. Surprisingly, she slept all night and didn't puke any more! Yes, there were prayers of joy that morning. But, I certainly held my breath when she ate her breakfast. Hooray! It stayed down! In fact, everything else the rest of the day stayed down! I was so thankful! I REALLY didn't want to text J and tell him that Princess had a stomach bug and he needed to watch for it and apologize like crazy! (Hey, he's got kids on his list that have more serious issues than Princess and REALLY couldn't handle getting sick!)

So that brings us to bedtime. I asked her if she wanted a "baba" and she said "No more baba." Okay... If you say so kid! Well, even though she had only taken a 20 minute nap, it still took her like an hour to fall asleep because without the bottle, she didn't know what to do! We tried reading. We tried snuggling. I tried the "I'm going to go put your brother to bed and be right back" (which used to work) and she just came out of her room! Eventually she fell asleep on the floor. That was Wednesday night.

Thursday night I asked if she wanted her baba and she again said "No more baba!" Okay, so we went to bed at 7:30. We read two books ("Hippos Go Berserk" and "Giraffes Don't Dance"), snuggled, and eventually she wanted to be "upside down" on my lap on the floor and wanted me to rub her tummy. She eventually fell asleep after an hour and was out enough for me to move her to her bed.

I don't know about last night, as she was at her dad's house, but I've washed the bottles and will be putting them up. I don't think I'm going to throw they away JUST yet. I'm probably going to hang on to them for about a week, THEN toss them. I don't think she's going to use them anymore. She's a BIG, Diva.

Friday, July 10, 2015

10 Things NOT to say to a Preemie Mom....and 4 Things you SHOULD

There are a lot of these posts that float around. "What not to say..." There's so many things we say that we think are helpful, but really aren't. Well, you may not know this, but I was born premature and now I'm a preemie mom. My mom did a post similar to this back shortly after Princess was born. I've seen a similar list a few times. But they always seem to leave off a few that I find very important.

Princess was born at 28 weeks, 6 days. She weighed just 2lbs 6oz and was 14in long. It wasn't easy in the NICU. I was so glad to have my mom beside me. She'd been through it before with me, and she did it in a time where there weren't support groups, or the Internet, or even a lot of research on preemies. There wasn't an offer of therapy or a follow up with an opthalmologist. Things were very different back then. Family centered care (where the mom or dad does most of the preemie's care) wasn't a thing. Kangaroo care wasn't stressed. When I left the hospital (at 3lbs 3oz!), my mom was given a follow-up appointment with my neonatologist for a year later. Everyone was surprised I was still alive when she brought me in a year later!

After rereading her original post on Princess's CaringBridge, I decided to create this list of the 10 Things NOT to say to a Preemie Mom and 4 Things you Should!

1. "(S)he is so tiny!"
Oh how I hated this! It was the first thing my mother-in-law said to me when she came back after seeing Princess. It annoyed me to no end! I know my preemie is tiny! I tried as hard as I could to make sure she grew as much as possible and had as long as possible in the Mom-incubator instead of the plastic incubator. So, as much as you want to tell the parents how tiny their baby is, DON'T. Find something else to say. Comment about their fingers, their hair, their toes, ANYTHING but how small they are.

2. "At least you get to sleep through the night!"
Sleep? Really? No, I'm not sleeping. Instead, I'm worrying. I'm pumping, I'm trying to get a few hours of sleep. Most NICU moms will pump breast milk for their babies. This means they have to trick their body into thinking that the baby is actually eating. They do this by pumping on a schedule of about every 2-4 hours. You don't get a whole lot of sleep when you have to wake up to your alarm to pump, or else you wake up to pain because you overslept your alarm. And don't even get me started about the worrying. Thankfully, the NICU is staffed 24/7 and they don't care if you call them at 1am because you woke up from a nightmare or 3am because you're awake pumping and you just want to know what your baby weighed. Oddly, it's now 2 years since Princess was in the NICU, and the phone number is STILL in my cell phone.

3. "You'd be just as tired if (s)he was at home."
This was ACTUALLY said to me by a lactation consultant when I complained after 6 weeks that I was exhausted. It didn't dawn on me until later how wrong and how upset that made me. No, I would not be "just as tired." We were an hour from the NICU. Not only was I pumping every 3 hours (see above), but I was driving almost every day to see my daughter. Thankfully, Little Man was still in his playschool, so I had 2 days a week that I would get to go by myself to go see her. But even then, it was annoying. I had to pump, drop Little Man off, drive to the hospital, spend like an hour bedside, go pump again, spend like another hour bedside, and then head home. When I got home, I pretty much had to pump, do what little I could do at home while recovering from a C-section and then do it all over again the next day. And don't even talk about the worry! I know my mom had it worse than I did because back in 1980, they didn't have caller ID, but being Princess was in a different area code, every time that area code popped up on my cell phone, my heart caught in my throat. Were they calling to tell me something was wrong? Was it the doctor? Did I need to find someone to watch Little Man so I could go be with Princess? It was absolutely awful seeing that area code pop up!

4. "When is your baby coming home?"
Do you want the short answer or the long answer? The short answer: I don't know. The long answer: Well, they have to do x,y,z and pass g and h and be able to handle a,b, and c. Yeah, it's a long list to come home. And frankly, preemie parents just don't know. All the books and websites that are out there now say to expect your preemie to go home around their due date. That's a good date to shoot for, but sometimes it takes longer. Sometimes it takes less time. I was told 3 times "In about a week or two she should go home." Talk about get your hopes up. I learned after the first time to quit hoping. Preemies have their own schedule, just like when you're pregnant with your baby. Babies tend to come when they want to and preemies tend to come home when they want to as well. I literally had 18 hours notice before Princess came home. I got a call from the nurse when she got on shift to find out if we were coming that night. (We usually came Wednesday nights and were usually there at shift change.) I told her we were just about ready to leave. Well, she told me to make sure I brought Princess's car seat and they would do the test that night and if she passed, she could go home the next day. Yeah, for some us, we don't get much notice. So please don't ask. And some preemies come home with extras, like apnea monitors or oxygen or even a feeding pump and g-tube. So it may just make things more complicated.

5. "Time will fly by!"
Really? You think so? Do remember those advent calendars for Christmas as a child. You literally though it was going to be forever until Santa came. Well, it's kinda like that. Sure, looking back on it, 77 days doesn't seem like that long, but time passes strangely in the NICU. It's like sometimes it can pass in a blink. The first time holding your little one is NEVER long enough. But other times it passes in minutes or nano-seconds. But yet here's the strange thing, you walk in there first thing in the morning and when you walk out, it's late at night. The time passed so slowly yet so quickly, you forgot to eat. It wasn't enough time and you want to turn back around and go back in and spend every second with your child.

6. "(S)he will be home before you know it." This kind of follows the previous two. Sure, to you it seems like they'll be home soon. Not to us. Yeah, we'll never be "ready" for them to come home. We never got to do that "nesting" thing. The nursery never really got put together. All those things we bought (or didn't get to buy) may or may not work now. With Princess, I wasn't going to buy a car seat for her. We were just going to use her brother's old one. Well, when they started talking about her possibly coming home, she was only 4lbs! I check my old car seat and it was only rated at the lowest of 5lbs! So I had to buy her a new car seat! And then I was worried it wouldn't come in time.

7. "You need to take care of yourself!"
Um, take care of myself? Yeah, I'm supposed to squeeze in a shower between pumping and driving to the NICU. Date night has been put on hold. I'm lucky if I can remember where all my pump parts are, let alone to eat right. NICU life is hard. Whether you are driving back and forth, or staying near the hospital, there's no time to cook. Your life revolves around your child. You'll live on fast food or restaurants and eat when you can. And it doesn't stop when your baby comes home. There's usually a ZILLION appointments to go to.

8. "Your baby needs to be exposed to germs."
Okay, this one may be true for your full term infant, but not necessarily a preemie. Preemies have immature immune systems, among other things. They need longer before they can "be exposed" to germs. Usually until they are about 2 years old. Germs can be very scary for a preemie parent. Since their lungs are one of the last things to develop, they are susceptible to respiratory viruses. One of these viruses could put them in the hospital again, where with a full term baby they may just get sick and get over it. Some preemies are lucky enough to receive Synagis to help protect them, but it only offers some protection. Preemies and their families are encouraged to into quarantine mode during flu season and also in the months following their initial discharge. In fact, you may be lucky if you are able to go back to work with a preemie. Since most will not be allowed into a day care setting until they are 2, parents usually have to stay home with their preemie. And if you're lucky enough to visit sometime during the summer months, you'll probably be asked to drop your shoes at the door and wash and sanitize. And then, even after that "magic 2 year" mark, you'll be asked if you've had your flu shot every winter when you visit. Going to preschool or day care may seem like simple things for other children, but for preemie parents, they are a right of passage. It means that their child is hopefully stable enough to fight of germs and not end up in the hospital again.

9. "I could never do that!"
You know what, I thought this too before it happened. But please don't say it out loud. Prematurity affects everyone. Just when you think it won't affect you, someone you know will have a baby prematurely. And besides, you never really know if you can do something until you have to.

10. "I'm sorry."

Of all things, please don't say this. We have enough guilt. We don't need your pity. We are trying to do the best we can for our babies. Guilt is something we wrestle with a lot. The guilt of our bodies letting us down. The guilt of having to focus on one child more than the others. I had to drop Little Man off with his grandparents when he was getting over an illness just so I could go visit Princess and drop of breast milk. I did a whole blog entry on this very subject regarding Princess now having her disorder, but it also applies to preemie moms.

So, now you don't know what to say because I just took all your responses away, huh? Well, here is what you can say:

1. "Congratulations!"
Every mom longs to hear this. And usually with preemies, this phrase doesn't come. For whatever reason, people are afraid to congratulate preemie moms on the birth of their child. I mean, sure, their birth doesn't go according to plan. The baby is usually whisked off to the NICU, on a ventilator, on an IV and very "sick." But the mom STILL had a baby, albeit early. Congratulate her, whether she was induced, went into early labor, or had a c-section.

2. "I'm praying for you."
Yeah, this one can be very simple to say, especially when you don't know what to say. Those four words can mean the world to a tired mom. They speak volumes.

3. "You're so strong!"
Use this one sparingly. It could come off sounding like #9. But there are times that every preemie mom needs to hear this. The days that are difficult. The set backs. The surgeries. Preemie moms begin to doubt that they can continue to drive to the NICU and visit their baby after the 10th, 50th or even 100th day. That's when they need you to remind them that they are strong.

4. "Can I come do (fill-in-the-blank)?"
If you want to help the family, be specific. "Can I cut your grass?" "Can I make you dinner?" "Can I watch your other children?" Don't ask "Is there anything you need?" because honestly, we don't know what we need. What we really need is to hold our baby, be with our baby, have our baby home. But most of these things aren't always possible. So ask if you can do something specific. The family may say no, but try to do something anyway: mow their lawn, make them dinner, pick their kid up from day care or school. The sweetest thing I had happen while Princess was in the NICU was Little Man's playschool teacher made us dinner one night. Sure it was a casserole, but it helped. It was one night where I didn't have to worry about what to feed everyone. And actually it turned into like two or three nights. I didn't ask her to, she asked me.

Like I said, I'm a former preemie and a preemie mom. Some of these were said to me. Some weren't. Some I've heard said before. I run a Facebook Page for Preemie Mamas. I don't want anyone to go through what my mom went through, or what I went through. But if by chance you find yourself in that situation, know that there is support out there for you. And now you know what you can say to make a poor, worn out, stressed out preemie mom feel just a little better for a moment. Just be careful. They may break down into tears. And that's okay.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Breastfeeding vs. Bottle feeding...STOP already!

I follow a lot of different groups: preemie groups, stay-at-home parent groups, mom groups, special needs groups. One of those topics that gets thrown around every so often is the breastfeeding versus bottle feeding. Why? Because of several different reasons. Sometimes a moderator will ask the question as, "Did you breastfeed or bottle feed and why?" But usually the question is just posed as "Breast or Bottle?" And then you tend to have 3 different opinions: the moms who can breastfeed and advocate it and say it's easy; the moms who chose not to breastfeed; and the moms who tried but couldn't do it and wound up bottle feeding. But the whole argument needs to end.

God gave women (and every other mammal) a way to feed their babies. He gave them breasts (in some form). Therefore, it is safe to assume that breastfeeding is best. I don't disagree with this. But there are times when breastfeeding is not an option. Let me give you three examples:

1. My mom couldn't breastfeed me because she was on antibiotics. The antibiotics would have crossed the barrier into the breast milk, therefore giving me antibiotics I didn't need and could have harmed me.

2. I tried to breastfeed my son, but he wouldn't latch and we later found out he was tongue tied. I tried and tried to get him to latch, but after 3 days of trying, I opted for him to be formula fed because he was STARVING. He had chapped lips because the poor kid was getting dehydrated!

3. My daughter was never physically breastfed but was on breast milk for the first two months of her life. She was tube fed and eventually bottle fed breast milk. She was born premature and I couldn't be there for every feeding. But at two months old, she developed a milk protein allergy and was eventually switched to formula. 

Did any of these situations make us bad moms because we didn't breastfeed? No!

Yes, I think the whole idea of people being put-off by breastfeeding moms who do it in public is ridiculous! Whether they chose to cover up or not is their own choice! They are feeding their child! Get over it! What a lot of people don't realize is that breastfeeding mamas who are able to exclusively breastfeed, not pump and introduce a bottle of breast milk, they are literally TIED to their baby 24/7. Usually, at some point, moms have to go back to work or some other circumstance happens and this means they are going to pump and introduce a bottle of breast milk to their baby. Another thing that people don't realize is that breastfed babies can to take longer to sleep through the night. They will wake up for the middle of the night feeding a lot longer than a bottle fed baby. So breastfeeding moms are likely to be more sleep deprived.

But here's the thing that gets me. No one asks WHY moms bottle feed. They just ASSUME that it was a choice. Well, maybe it wasn't. Breastfeeding is HARD! Some moms and babies get it right away. Others have to work really hard at it. Think about it. If it was easy would there be lactation consultants?

And then there are those kiddos who are tube-fed and have a g-tube (or a j-tube) for whatever reason. I know of a couple people who have tubies kids. Some are tube-fed due to an oral aversion. These kids won't put things in their mouth. They work hard with feeding therapy and occupational therapy to overcome this aversion because, honestly, no one WANTS their child to have a tube. I also know a couple of kids who HAVE to have a g-tube for medical reasons. They have disorders that cause them to need nutrition constantly.

So, really, please stop arguing over which is better. Don't judge another mama. You know know what their situation was like. Please don't tell a mama that she was wrong to bottle feed, or so was wrong to breastfeed until 2. I admire the moms who were able to breastfeed. It was something I wasn't able to do. In the end, it doesn't matter how the kiddos were fed as babies. All that's going to matter is that they are loved.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Six Weeks till School

Oh my goodnees! Where has the summer gone?

Okay, well, I knew it was going to go fast, but there's only six weeks left before I have a kindergartner!

With that being said, things started arriving in the mail from the school addressed: "To the parents of:" What?! Already? Okay, I've always gotten stuff addressed as "The the parents of:" for Princess. Usually it's from a hospital or clinic. But now I'm getting stuff for Little Man from his school!

Okay, breathe. This isn't a bad thing. You used to be a teacher, remember?

So I took the stuff from the welcome letter and put it on our bulletin board:

Yes, there is still some summer stuff on there: The Summer Tot-Time schedule and Little Man's Summer Reading Log, but otherwise, it's looking like we have a kid in school! Dental Assessment Form has to go with us to the dentist next week. Free & Reduced Meal Form has to be turned in. I'm probably going to turn them both in at the same time. The school calendar has been on the bulletin board for a while. We've got the school supply list, which we've already got a couple things checked off! And then there's the kindergarten orientation flyer. Kindergarten orientation is more for the kids than the adults. As soon as Little Man is comfortable, I can leave. He'll be there for two hours.

On the back of the orientation flyer was the introduction letter from Mrs. W, Little Man's teacher. It listed her blog and when our conference time was. His school does Personal Learning Plans for all students, so we'll meet with her three times; this first time before school starts. But there probably won't be much too talk about except what I've noticed, as she won't have assessed him yet.

We also got the welcome letter from the principal. It listed the uniform code and where we can go to get the school logo put on Little Man's shirts. It also told when Back to School Night is. And I found out that the first week is half day for kindergarten! Okay, it's only 3 days, and every Friday is half day anyway, but that was good to know.

Thankfully Mrs. W. made a YouTube video on how to do pick up and where the kids get picked up from. It was very helpful! I'm just curious how crazy things get on Fridays with EVERYONE getting out at the same time. It will definitely be a time of practicing patience.

It's still really hard to believe that in six short weeks I'm going to have a kindergartner! Where does the time go.
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