My baby is better than your baby.

Well, that wasn’t nice was it? Ok, ok, so I don’t really think my baby is better than yours. OK, OK! FINE! I kinda do. But that’s only because he’s my baby. I’m sure you think your baby is better than mine too, right? Don’t lie. You know you do. Anyway, regardless whose baby is better (mine) I will share with you some of the fun and wonderful things about Baby G. He’s so cute. Can’t help but love him.

1) He’s a ninja. No, seriously. The other day I put him on his play mat for torture, I mean TUMMY, time. I laid him down, stood up to open the blinds, and turned back around to find him flipped over on his back. This was his third successful attempt at rolling over and the first time he’s done it so fast no one saw it. And his first successful rolling over he was just under 10 weeks old. Which means 1 weeks gestationally. He’s a superstar.

2) He sings to me. Really! Our morning ritual goes like this: He wakes up, I pull him into bed with me, nurse him laying down (both sides) and then sometimes we snooze (if he’s kept me up late) or I just get up. When it’s get-up time, he lays on my bed while I shower and so far has only had one or two crying fits before I got out. He generally lays there and stares at the fan/lights (he’s obsessed). Then we head upstairs to change his diaper (which has, by this point, swollen to gargantuan proportions), wipe him down (he gets a bath at night but due to spitting up and that diaper he can get pretty ripe), and get dressed for the day. I sing “Good Morning to You” and “You Are My Sunshine” and he sings with me. Ok, so it’s just musical sounding coos but it’s so precious. I’m pretty sure he told me “Hi” the other day too. What can I say? He’s a genius.

3) He’s super snuggly. He’d really rather you never put him down. While this may make peeing and showering and cooking interesting, I love a good snuggly baby.

4) He makes the best faces. When he starts to fall asleep his facial expression range from smiles to sad pouty frowns. Sometimes he makes a throaty chuckle sound. He was doing this from birth. Now in addition to his sleepy faces he makes all sorts of other ones. Kissy lips, “Oooh” lips, big smiles, half smiles, “boo” lips (bottom lip stuck WAY out)… They are all just great. Sometimes he opens his eyes up really wide and wrinkles up his little forehead. He’s very expressive. And photogenic.

5) He’s very strong. While he was still in the NICU he could lift his head up off my chest and turn it from side to side. Very soon after getting him home he would push up on his arms, lifting his entire upper body off the ground. He could actually lift his legs off at the same time too. Now, while sitting in the Bumbo he can right himself if he slumps over. Amazing. Strongest baby award.

6) He loves bath time. Ok, maybe he just tolerates bath time really well. But this is a marked improvement on screaming during the entire bath which happened a few times before I started bathing him in the tub part (I was using the infant hammock thing). Now he sits and floats his little legs and looks at the handsome baby in the mirror. Or the lights. Did I mention he likes lights? They are the coolest. But he lets me wash his face and scrub his head with a little scrubby brush (the same one we used in the NICU that came off the arm scrubbers) and then looks bright-eyed out of his cute little hooded towels and then sweetly lays there while I get him dressed. *Sigh.* Ok, that very last part is mostly a lie. He more often than not screams bloody murder while I put his diaper and jammies on. I think it’s because he’s cold and he really really hates to be cold. I think he hates being cold more than he hates being hungry. And let me tell you, this baby loves his milks.

7) He’s adorable. He is the cutest baby. Ever. Again, you may try to disagree. But you will never change my mind.

8) He fights his milks when they don’t give him enough. At least I think that’s why he does it. It’s so funny. He’ll start out nursing peacefully and relaxed, sometimes staring up at me while he’s nursing. This, dear friends, is the sweetest most precious thing. His big blue eyes looking up at me so intently while he snuggles and nurses. *heart melts* Sorry, lost track there for a minute. By “fighting” I mean he grumbles and growls and pushes his arms and legs against me all while he’s still nursing. It’s so funny. Too bad you can’t see it. But you can’t. Cuz we’re not THAT good of friends.

So I’ll stop for now. I could go on and on but I don’t want to make you jealous.

If you don’t have something nice to say…

Say it anyway! Thinking before you speak is such an antiquated idea! Okay, maybe it’s not so much the thinking before you speak as much as thinking things THROUGH before you speak.

Ok so I’ve already told you about the “Are they sure it’s not twins” comment. I’m sure there were other less than thought out comments made while I was pregnant but I thankfully have not retained them. But since Baby G came home it seems people are allowing their inner monologues to be not so inner.

A week or so ago we had gone to Wally World and I was wearing Baby G in the Moby Wrap. People often comment on his size and assume he’s a newborn. I generally don’t explain that he was a preemie right off the bat because it seems like too much info too fast. I guess I also find it funny to watch their faces as they try to figure out the age vs. weight thing.

Side note. I think it’s funny how everyone asks the same questions. How old is your baby? How much does he weigh? It’s universal. Everyone does it. I’m not sure when they stop asking the weight question. At what point does it not matter how much the baby weighs?

Back to Wally World. There were two ladies – a mom and daughter – who exclaimed over the sweet tiny baby. So of course they asked how old he was. 10 weeks. Oh my gosh he’s so tiny! How much does he weigh? 7lbs 8oz. *crickets chirping* You could see the gears turning as they tried to fit these two pieces of information together. I never let them suffer too long for fear of their heads exploding because you know they want to ask so badly why he’s so small. So I volunteer that he was a preemie and he was born 9 weeks early and weighed 3lbs 6oz. The daughter had just had a baby who was 9+ lbs. Here’s the fun part. The mom then states that I am so lucky to have had such a tiny baby. *more crickets*

Seriously?? Oh, yes, I’m so glad I was spared a horrible birth experience with a ginormous baby by having an emergency C-section 9 weeks early. *whew* Dodged a bullet! 5 1/2 weeks in the NICU… 9lb natural birth. Oh yeah. Choice is totally clear. Good thing I made the right one.

The second comment was by an older lady yesterday at the grocery store. I had walked in with him in his carseat and she offered me her cart. Naturally she commented on his size and how cute he is (because, my dear friends, he’s adorable) and asked his age. 11 weeks. Her comment: “He’s going to be so short when he grows up!” *face palm* So then I go on to explain he was a preemie, blah blah blah, etc etc.

People don’t think before they speak. While these comments (unlike the twins one) don’t bother me – in fact I think they’re funny – it still amazes me what people will say.

The Stuff Dreams are Made of

I don’t often dream. I assume it’s because I fall into bed exhausted at night and there just isn’t enough brain function left to do so. When I do dream though, it’s usually in the second (or third or fourth) part of our night after Baby G wakes up, eats, and goes back to bed. Those dreams are generally bizarre. They tend to have some kind of overall theme and often are filled with anxiety or some kind of stress (late for a flight and haven’t started packing yet is a common one). Also they are often influenced by what’s going on in my life.

Last night’s (this morning’s?) dream was true to form. The underlying “theme” was I was late for my first day back to work. I don’t remember a lot of the first part of the dream but somewhere in the middle it got awfully strange as we were running away from some assassin-bad-guys or something to that affect. At some point there was a big machine chasing us and we were scaling what I’m pretty sure was racking. Like The Big Orange Box has. But apparently we weren’t in The Big Orange Box because I was still late for work. Must have been some other warehouse. But, *whew,* we made it through.

This is where I love how my mind works. It’s apparent where my priorites lie. After we made it past the bad guys we happened on a candy aisle (very convenient in a warehouse) and stopped to stock up. I guess we felt safe enough at that point to satisfy the munchies that crept up from running for our lives.

So, like most of my dreams, it then transitioned into something else and I ended up in a mall on the other side of town where I had to run through the place to get to work. But I ended up at home instead of at work and had to get ready. I think by this point I was already hours late but I just couldn’t seem to get myself out of the house. I’m pretty sure by the time I woke up I hadn’t made it to work yet.

There ya go. An insight into the inner workings of my mind. I think we’ve learned a few things here. I’m obviously apprehensive about going back to work (read: dreading like the plague), I get too involved in whatever I’m reading (I’m rereading Eldest right now so I’m assuming that’s where the bad guy chasing stuff came into play), and I always have time for candy. Oh, yeah, and I’m always late.

NICU Survival Guide

No one plans to have a premature baby. No one gets pregnant and sets out to have their baby early. I hope. You plan your nursery, you plan the birth, you plan the coming home… and then something happens that throws all those plans out the window. Babies are good that way.  Some moms have a little warning that their baby is coming early and others, like me, get about 5 minutes notice before they are knocked out and then wake up a mom. We read books and websites and blogs about pregnancy and birth and new babies but none of those prepare you for your baby’s early birth and stay in the NICU. While we had a pretty “easy” time of it as far as NICU stays go, it still would have been nice to have had some form of guide book or tip sheet to help us feel more prepared. So I thought I would put together a list of things I wish I would have known or that I think are important. These aren’t necessarily in order, by the way. I’m definitely not organized enough these days for that.

  • 1) Since you probably already have determined if you are going to breastfeed or not, make it clear what your decision is and what you will and will not allow. This primarily affects breastfeeding moms. Most NICUs will advocate for breastmilk and you will get the use of a hospital pump. Baby G had a feeding tube for all but a few days of his NICU stay. Towards the end he was getting his feeds from breast, bottle, and tube until he got enough stamina to do all his feeds from breast and bottle. We knew that in order to go home, Baby G would have to be doing all his feeds without use of the tube so that meant bottles when I wasn’t there. Since I had always planned to EBF (exclusively breast feed) this upset me but I understood the need. I found out about two weeks in that they expected him to go home doing half his feeds by bottle. This meant more pumping for me. *sigh* But I’m glad I found out then and not right at the end. I also had them wait on bottles until breastfeeding was established. This might have extended our stay a little but it was important to me for breastfeeding to be what he did first.
  • 2) Find out the hospital’s philosophy on touch, kangaroo care (skin-to-skin holding), and parent involvement with baby’s care. This is important. You need to know specifically what they believe and what their expectations are. If they allow touching (hand-hugging) find out when this is allowed and what circumstances would prevent you from doing so. How often do they recommend/allow kangaroo care? Are the parents allowed to be involved in general care (diaper changes, baths, etc). Touch is good for your baby. Kangaroo care is very beneficial for you and the baby.
  • 3) Ask for a tour. My husband got a tour the first night but it was several days in when I got mine. What are the different areas/rooms, what is the progression through the NICU, is there a specific waiting room, is there a lactation room or can you pump bedside? Are there lockers for personal belongings?
  • 4) Find out about what days they do what and when they will be ready for certain milestones. When is bath night, when do they get to wear clothes, when do they get to be held by someone other than mom/dad? That way you can be prepared. Also find out what you are allowed to bring in. We brought clothes, hats, blankets, a boppy, my robe, etc (I used the robe for kangaroo’ing). Make things as homey as you possibly can. I even had a drawer of snacks.
  • 5) Take lots and lots of pictures. We took pictures every day for 38 days. They change so fast and have so many milestones and things term babies don’t have. Get pictures at weeks and/or month milestones with something constant to show size (stuffed animal, toy, etc). We didn’t do this and I wish we had. Get pictures of their beds and all the apparatus. If nothing else, I think Baby G will want to see where he spent the first 5 1/2 weeks of his life.
  • 6) Get into a routine. I went to the hospital every day and spent most of the day. But I had to figure out pumping, showering, puming, getting dressed, eating lunch, packing dinner, pumping, driving, etc. So we finally got into a routine of when we’d wake up and how we’d do stuff in order to get us to the hospital around the same time every day. It helped things feel more “normal.” And helped us get there on time.
  • 7) Speak up. YOU are the parent. Don’t forget that. Yes, there are other people taking care of your baby at this stage of the game but ultimately YOU will be taking them home. The hospital may have helped them be born and be helping them live, but you gave them life. If you don’t understand something, see #8. If you think something is wrong or needs to be changed see #9. If you want to be more involved (#9) say something. You should fully understand the situation in which you’ve been placed and you have the right to tell someone when you feel something isn’t right or you don’t understand it.
  • 8) Ask questions. Again, this is YOUR baby. Sometimes the nurses/doctors get into a routine and sometimes forget there are people (parents) running around that are scared and confused and don’t understand the terminology or what all the tubes, wires and machines are. Ask if there are pamphlets of info. Go to http://www.marchofdimes.com/baby/premature_indepth.html (general info) or http://www.prematurebaby.ie/glossary.php (glossary of terms). Educate yourself but still don’t be afraid to ask fifty million questions. It’s your right. And you’re paying to be there anyway.
  • 9) Get involved. Do whatever they will let you do. We could change diapers, take his temperature, change his pulse-oximeter from foot to foot, bathe him, etc. But we didn’t start out being able to do these things. It took some time before I basically took it upon myself to do them and stop asking or waiting for them to offer. This was MY baby. Why shouldn’t I change his diaper or take his temperature? Some nurses would assume we would do these things and others wouldn’t even offer. With those nurses I basically just stepped in and took over. If you were home you’d be doing these basic things so why not get in some practice when all the supplies are free?
  • 10) Speaking of free supplies… take whatever they will give you. When we left we got whatever was left in his bed. Diapers, wipes, nose bulbs, baby soap, etc. Stock up on whatever you can. Again, you are paying for it. Also, our NICU tossed anything that hit the floor or was considered “disposable.” We snagged a paci or two that went on the floor and brought them home and disinfected them. They don’t have the time or the resources for this stuff but I’m glad we did because his preemie paci was the only one he’d use for the first 6 weeks he was home. And you can’t buy them anywhere. Get as many as you can.
  •  11) As soon as you are possibly able, get your baby’s footprints and handprints. Our NICU did not do this automatically. He was several weeks old and over a pound heavier when we finally got his footprints. He was home before we got his handprints. I wish I could have gotten them earlier. If you can, get them multiple times to show growth. If they won’t do it, do it yourself.
  • 12) Preemie clothes. Don’t go crazy with buying preemie stuff. They grow out pretty quickly but you will want some things for them to wear in the hospital. Baby G got his first clothes about a week in but was only allowed to wear t-shirts or onesies (no pants or footies) due to his PICC line for the first few days. Pre-wash a few things with dye-free fragrance-free soap. Also, hang dry them. 100% cotton baby clothes shrink and you want to get as much life out of these as possible and don’t want them to draw up. When they are ready for footie PJ’s (one piece) go for the snap up kind, not the zippered ones. That way there are multiple holes for the many cords and line to come out of. Label the insides with your baby’s name and designate a place in the area for dirty clothes/linens so the nurses know where to put them for you to take home. We found Carter’s stuff to fit the best (with the exception of some of their hats) because they are longer and slimmer and have longer legs than some of the other brands.
  • 13) Baby Gear. Not all carseats are rated for tiny babies. Ours (luckily) was rated for 4lbs and up. Make sure whatever carseat you have or have picked out can handle a tiny baby. We also found that removing the shoulder pads that came on the carseat helped the straps stay on his tiny shoulders better.We have a pack n play that Baby G thinks is a torture chamber. So he sleeps in a swing or a bouncy seat that looks like a bassinet. Preemies often have reflux so sleeping on an incline also helps. I read on several online preemie groups that people had very good luck with this: http://www.toysrus.com/product/index.jsp?productId=12413335.Baby G does really well being swaddled at night so we have Swaddle Pods and swaddle blankets we use every night.I bought a car seat cover (not this one but similar idea http://www.target.com/p/Itzy-Ritzy-Peek-A-Boo-Pod-Rodeo/-/A-13997784) which is great for when they come home and you have to go out. Keeps people from getting too close because you can cover them completely. They make winter versions too that are warm and cozy. I highly recommend one of these.Most infant carriers (ones you wear them in) are rated for 8lbs and up. Baby G came home at 5lbs 6oz. The very best carrier I have found so far is a Moby wrap. They look hard to use and take a few tries to get it right but it is by far my favorite way to carry him. It is secure and holds them nice and tight. Baby G will sleep for hours in it and I don’t have to support his head or worry about him falling out. Something else I highlyrecommend. There are about a jillion youtube videos showing you how to use them too. I prefer the folded method. Which will make sense if you get one.
  • 14) Keepsakes. Snag whatever you can from the hospital that shows their size or stay. I snagged his first paci (tiny little thing), a preemie diaper (he came home in newborn diapers), his blood pressure cuff, his first hat, his C-Pap hat, his bili-shades, etc. I plan to do a shadow box of all these things. Again, just things I think he will enjoy seeing when he gets older. And I’m sentimental. And a little bit of a pack rat.
  • 15) Baby book. I found a baby book online that is specific to preemies. It has extra info that normal books (and term babies) don’t have. It was created by two NICU nurses and you can find it at http://www.earlyarrivalinc.com/.
  • 16) Keep a journal. This can be a journal for you, for your baby, of the stay… whatever. I wrote down everything that happened. I also was given a journal by a friend to write down my personal thoughts and I chose to use this to write to Baby G. Now that I’m home I haven’t written in it much but while we were there I wrote in it often. You need an outlet for all the things you think and feel. Writing them down is a good way to do it. It also helps you remember those early days that seem to blur by.

This is all I can think of for now. I’ll do another post about what to expect when your baby comes home. But it’ll have to wait. I’m still pretty sleep deprived so it takes me awhile sometimes to formulate coherent thoughts and then transcribe them grammatically and with correct spelling. I do have an infant you’ll remember.