Friday, August 30, 2013


I had a rough day on Wednesday; my patience and my temper were fighting to see which one had more control. A certain two-year-old who lives with me was driving me bonkers. I'm sad to say, my temper won most of the battles. I know everyone has crappy days sometimes, and I should just move on and try to be better instead of wallowing in my guilt. But she's only two. Yes, a very intelligent two, but only two, regardless, and maybe sometimes I forget that important little fact.

I've been reflecting today on motherhood and how I treat my children versus how I should be treating my children. To me, becoming a mother was an amazing gift that, at one point, I didn't think that I would ever receive. It took us three very long and heartbreaking years before Evje was conceived. I won't bore you with all of those details, but suffice it to say that when I finally became pregnant, it was a big surprise. We were so excited and so thrilled to finally become parents after such a long wait. Throughout my pregnancy, I rejoiced in every precious kick & bump that I felt. And when Evje was born, I promised myself that I would try my hardest to not be a "complaining parent", you know what I'm talking about; those parents who whine to others about their kids more often than not. The ones who jokingly say to a childless couple as they drag their screaming child out of the room, "You want a kid? Here you go, take mine, ha ha ha." I hated it when people would say things like that to me. I wanted to shake them and tell them that even when their child is screaming and doing other embarrassing things, it is their child, a precious gift from God, and they should be grateful for every moment with that child because not everybody gets to experience parenthood.

And here we are, nearly two years and a half years later, and every once in a while, I find myself being a complaining parent, or letting my temper get the better of me when Evje is being naughty. When I realize what I'm doing, I feel ashamed that I have forgotten. Forgotten the longing to become pregnant, forgotten the joy of holding our precious new baby for the first time, forgotten the love that swells my heart when she does something amazing.

In order to not forget, I want to write down some of my memories of the last few months since we have brought Elsie home from the hospital. Most of them are small and trivial, but I don't want to forget these precious moments with my precious children.

  • Evje, finding every possible "blanket" that she can, covering Elsie with burp cloths, towels, rags, and doll blankets.
  • Feeding baby food to Elsie while Evje sits next to me, who dips her finger into the baby food and shoves it into Elsie's mouth.
  • Elsie waking up every morning with a smile on her face.
  • Evje shoving a baby bottle into Elsie's belly button and exclaiming that she is feeding Elsie!
  • Laying in bed on a Saturday morning and laughing so hard with Clayton because Elsie is "passing gas" so loudly. Man, that girl can toot!
  • Evje holding a spray nozzle (the kind that attaches to your garden hose and you squeeze the handle to make the water come out) up to her belly button and exclaiming that she is pumping like mommy! 
  • Evje asking over and over and over for "chocolate milk in a baby bottle, little bit warm." That is her breakfast of choice these days, as well as a mid-afternoon snack. She'd drink it all day long if I let her.
  • Evje always wanting to lay down with Elsie on the bed. I think this one has to do with Evs' obsession with blankets, but she loves loves loves to lay on the bed with her sister.
  • Evje talking to Elsie in a sweet, high-pitched, baby talk voice.
  • Constant battles with Evs on whether Elsie is allowed to sit in the green bouncy chair, or if Evje has currently claimed that one for herself and insists on Elsie sitting in the blue bouncy chair. Thank goodness that we have two bouncy chairs for the times that big sister is feeling selfish. 
  • Elsie sitting in the coveted green bouncy chair, and Evje squatting in front of her, talking in her baby talk voice, and Elsie laughing and smiling so much.
  • Going for walks with the stroller, and Evje jumping out of the stroller so that she can run back, pull back the cover on Elsie's seat and talk to her.
  • Elsie, who has been poked and prodded and examined for the first five months of her life in a somewhat unpleasant hospital setting, not only endures being poked and prodded by her big sister, but manages to laugh and smile while she does so.
  • Finding "flowers" with Elsie in her Moses basket that Evs has picked in the backyard and so generously shared with her sister.
  • Trying to encourage Elsie to drink from a bottle, while Evje is on the floor throwing a tantrum because I've told her that she needs to wait to take a bath until I'm done with Elsie, and Elsie then gags on the bottle and throws up all of the bananas that I just tried so hard to get her to swallow.
  • Evje wanting to dance with Elsie, and after I've explained for the billionth time that Elsie can't stand up to dance yet, Evje is satisfied with holding Elsie's hands while she dances herself.
  • While Elsie is laying on the floor on top of a blanket, Evje insisting on "wrapping up" Elsie, and proceeding to wrap Elsie up like a burrito, even though I've told her again and again not to cover up Elsie's face. I tell you, this girl has got a thing for blankets.
  • Showing Evje Elsie's scar on her back from her PDA ligation, and Evje leaning forward to kiss it better.
  • Me and Elsie sitting on the front porch, giggling and watching Evje run around the yard, carrying a stick, saying, "Goodbye, my daughters. See you soon, my daughters." Over and over and over. Don't ask where she got that from, we have no idea. 

Those are just a few of my special memories with my sweet girls. I love these children so much, even when we have rough days. I need to remember to treat them like the precious gifts from God that they are. Even when they are both crying and I want to give up, when my patience is running thin, when I am weary of the demands of motherhood, I will always love them and I don't want to forget these precious memories.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Feeding therapy successes

We had our third appointment today with the feeding therapist, and can I just say how much I love going there? A, I'm happy that we're getting help with Elsie's feeding issues. B, I love the therapists there. Ok, I've only met two of them, but they are awesome and I really like working with them. And C, each time we go there, Elsie does something amazing! Or at least, the therapists acknowledge that she is making amazing progress. I don't have much to compare Elsie's eating problems with, besides her 2 year old sister. I'm not familiar with any other infants with similar problems. But the therapists here see a myriad of infants and children each day, and so when they tell me that Elsie is doing amazing and that they are astonished by her progress, that makes me happy.

I've had a few people in our family talk to me recently that were surprised and unaware of Elsie's eating problems, so in case any one else is confused, at this point Elsie does not eat anything by mouth. She has not done so since the beginning of July. She receives all of her meals through her feeding tube. Her gag reflex is very strong and very far forward in her mouth, so whenever she attempted to suck via bottle or breast, the sucking would cause her to gag and sometimes vomit. During the last two weeks at home, we've been working with Elsie on being happy with things in her mouth, and reminding her that eating can be pleasant. In addition to rubbing her gums and playing little games with her tongue, I've been feeding her small amounts of banana or pear puree by dipping a pacifier or bottle nipple into the fruit and placing it on the tip of her tongue. Her gagging and vomiting has decreased quite a bit. She's still got a long ways to go, but she is improving. We attempted to breastfeed once after her last therapy appointment, but she gagged pretty quickly and I haven't tried it since. Too chicken, I guess.

At today's appointment, therapist Helene gave us some pointers on bottle feeding, and we practiced while we were there. Elsie needs "cheek support", which is gently squeezing her cheeks towards her mouth so that her little lips form a nice pucker. You see, it has been so long since Elsie has successfully drank from a bottle that she doesn't remember how to do it. She is re-learning how to eat with her mouth. When we gave her the cheek support, her lips puckered around the nipple like it is supposed to, and after a few moments, she began slowly sucking. She was very hesitant and very apprehensive, and kept looking to me and the therapist for reassurances, but she was drinking from a bottle without gagging. I was astonished. So was Helene. One of the goals that we established for Elsie's feeding therapy on our first appointment was that Elsie would someday be able to drink 5 milliliters of milk, either by breast or bottle. 5 mls. is not very much. It is a very small amount, but that was our hope, that she would someday be able to drink that small amount. Today during therapy, Elsie drank almost 15 mls. and didn't gag once. I'd say that's nothing short of a miracle. Yes, it took her a lot of time and a lot of support to do so, but she did it. We were thrilled!

Then we got greedy and after giving Elsie a break to rest and reorganize herself, starting spoon-feeding her some banana puree. She did awesome again until the end of our session, and then she got tired and gagged and puked up all the bananas. Ha ha, oopsies.

Even with the gagging and vomiting at the end, we were still thrilled with her progress. Helene said that most babies who had severe gagging issues like Elsie would show an aversion to the bottle, meaning they would see the bottle and start screaming and not let it anywhere near their mouth. Elsie's ability to keep trying to eat, despite the fear and pain of having gagged repeatedly on the bottle, shows her extreme resilience and determination.

Our homework for the next two weeks is to do two spoon-feedings with the puree per day, and at least one bottle feeding per day. Not that she'll be drinking an entire bottle during these feedings, not yet anyway, but we are practicing bottle-feeding and hope to increase the amount that she can tolerate. Someday she'll be able to drink an entire bottle, and that will be a noteworthy day :)

"See my tongue?"

We so love our happy baby!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Blessing day

Yesterday was a wonderful day for our little family. In a special priesthood ordinance, Elsie was given a name and a blessing by her father.

This was Elsie's first time going to church, her first time being in a crowd of people, and I'll be honest, I was a little freaked out. Probably there's lots of people out there who think that I'm being extra paranoid and overprotective by keeping her at home and away from crowds, but even though Elsie is healthy now, we still need to be cautious and protect her from germs. Her immune system is very vulnerable and susceptible to infection. In order to keep the crowds somewhat small, we invited only our immediate families, although we would have loved to share our special day with all of you.

The blessing was sweet and tender. It was such a special, special moment. It was a reminder of the Lord's love for Elsie and for each of us. We have seen miracle after miracle in Elsie's short life so far, and countless blessings that have changed our family. We are so thankful for her and her special spirit.

Monday, August 5, 2013

7/3 months

Little Elsie turned 7 months old yesterday! She is seven months old actual age, three months adjusted age. I can't believe how quickly the time has gone by, but at the same time it has gone by very sloooow. Either way, she continues to bless our lives and we're so thankful to have her sweet spirit in our family.

Here's what's been going on lately. We had a feeding evaluation done by a speech pathologist, who is also a lactation specialist. Her name is Helene, and she's completely wonderful, so funny and someone who makes you feel comfortable right off the bat. Anyway, she did an evaluation and it was determined that Elsie's gag reflex is really far forward. Most ordinary people can stick a good length of a finger or almost an entire finger down their throat before they will gag. Elsie gags after about an inch of a finger is in her mouth. Consequently, as she has gotten bigger and stronger and is able to suck harder, she gags more. I'm relieved that it's not something that I'm doing wrong. I mean, logically I knew it was nothing that I was doing wrong, but you tend to have moments of self-doubt when your baby gags every time you try to feed her. Anyway, the feeding therapist said that there is no physical reason why Elsie can't overcome the gag and be able to feed by mouth eventually. It might take some time and lots of patience, but this is something that we can conquer. Hooray!

Let me just mention that Helene was absolutely thrilled to meet Elsie. She said that after reading about Elsie's medical history, she was expecting to see a much more different baby. Had Elsie not been wearing an oxygen cannula, she said she never would have guessed that Elsie was a preemie. She was amazed at Elsie's size and her generally healthy appearance. What can I say, my little miracle baby has some good chub :)

After our initial evaluation, we were given a homework assignment. We needed to help Elsie rediscover that eating is enjoyable, and not scary or painful. For two weeks, we were to take a bottle nipple or a binky, dip the tip in milk, and place the drop of milk in her mouth. This we did, and Elsie loved it. She would get so excited to see the bottle and would kick her legs like crazy.

Today was our follow-up appointment. Helene was thrilled with Elsie's progress, and said Elsie was doing much better than she had anticipated. Then we tried a fun little experiment and fed Elsie some pureed bananas. We did the same thing as with the milk; dipped the bottle nipple in the bananas and placed it gently on her lips. Initially, she was pretty wary, but after the first few mouthfuls, she did great. Her tongue and swallowing coordination was really good. She only gagged twice, when Helene challenged her with a big mouthful of banana to see how Elsie would handle it. This is very encouraging. Some children with eating problems will refuse to take any food by mouth at all, so this was a huge step in the right direction. Helene, again, was way impressed.

Our homework for this week is to feed Elsie pureed baby food one time a day. We're also going to try breastfeeding again and see how she does. Chances are she's not quite ready for that yet, but we're going to try.

In other news, Elsie had a physical therapy evaluation because her head is flat on one side. Generally, when a baby has a flat head, there will also be tense neck muscles on the opposite side of the flat head, and the baby will need PT to help strengthen and stretch the muscles. However, after her evaluation, it was determined that Elsie doesn't have any muscle problems, and doesn't need any physical therapy at this time. She basically has a "positional" flat head, meaning, her head is flat on one side because that is the position that she was always in while in the NICU. So we have some simple exercises and things to do to help improve the shape of her head. Once again, the physical therapist was thrilled and amazed by Elsie. That makes me happy.

She's crying because she's so happy.

She's happy because she doesn't wear diapers anymore!!

Oh, and did I mention that Elsie is completely off of oxygen now? No more tubes, no more tape on the face, and no more monitors. She is completely unattached, we are free and liberated (as liberated as you can be when you're still sort of quarantined) and loving life.