Monday, January 27, 2014

My loves

This one:

Sometimes I have somewhat irrational worries that Elsie doesn't have as close of an attachment to us since she was hospitalized for the first five months of her life. She's not super snuggly and when it comes to going to sleep, she'd much rather be placed in her own bed with a blanky instead of being rocked or cuddled to sleep. Don't get me wrong, I love that she goes to sleep so incredibly easily, but sometimes my irrational fears start rearing their ugly head and whisper mean things to me like, "She doesn't love you like other babies love their mommies" or "She's developing a sensory processing disorder or autism or some other scary disorder and she'll come to hate being touched, like when she was in the NICU." For the most part, these fears are just that, irrational fears, but sometimes fears creep into your mind and won't leave. Until you have moments of affirmation that your child does, in fact, love you. Moments where you are the only one that she turns to for comfort or reassurance, when she looks around the room until she finds you and then smiles, when she crawls over to you and tries to climb into your lap, when she turns constantly to touch you or to make sure you are still there while she is playing. She is my child and she loves me.

PS, she's crawling forward now :) No more backwards crawling!

This one:

Evje, on the other hand, is super snuggly. She loves hugs and kisses, loves to be held, loves to sit on our laps. She's my snuggle-bug. And despite my frequent impatience with her two year old behaviors, she still loves me with an unconditional love. She looks to me for comfort when she is hurt, sick, or afraid. She loves to help me make cookies or dinner, and we have so much fun together. She was my firstborn, the one who made me a mommy after a long wait. She is my child, and she loves me.

This one:

He is my rock, my partner in crime. He helps me with the children and dances with them around the kitchen. He sings ridiculously funny made-up lyrics to songs that he can't remember the real words. He leaves me notes and sends me sweet text messages. He wakes up early with the toddler on weekends and lets me sleep in with the baby. He surprises me with thoughtful gifts, and comforts me when I need comforting. He is incredibly good-looking in all of his cowboy gear on the back of a horse. He is my husband, and he loves me.

As the song goes, these are a few of my favorite things. I love them.

Monday, January 13, 2014

12 months!

Elsie has made a lot of progress on her motor development during the last month! Here's a few of the things that have been going on:

  • Elsie is crawling on her hands and knees! Ok, well, she can crawl backwards :) She can army crawl forward a few steps, but hasn't quite figured out how to shift out of reverse and go forward on her hands and knees. It's pretty funny to watch her; she'll go backwards until she runs into a wall or other obstacle, and then gets stuck until someone helps her out of the predicament. Silly girl. She'll get the hang of going forward soon.
  • Sitting up on her own! 
  • Elsie can now stand with support for about 10-15 seconds. Just a week or two ago, she could only stand for a few seconds before her legs would buckle. Now, with one of us supporting her around the waist, she can stand against the couch and reach for objects. Not a big deal to some, but such a big deal here!
  • Elsie learned how to go from lying down or crawling to sitting up, and from sitting up to crawling. This is a pretty big one to me personally; back in September we had our first visit at the Neonatal Follow-up Clinic, and the physical therapist there was a little discouraging. At the time, Elsie had low muscle tone and was a few months behind developmentally. I knew she was a little behind, but thought that Elsie was doing dang good regardless, especially when you think of all of the things she has gone through and overcome. But this physical therapist, while giving us some ideas of things to help Elsie get stronger, made a comment that stuck in my mind. She said something like, "I bet Elsie will be one of those babies who can sit up when someone sits her up, and will play sitting up for long periods of time because she won't know how to get herself out of the sitting position. She'll have a hard time learning how to change positions and become mobile." She wasn't saying it to be mean, she was trying to be motivational, like "Prove me wrong at the next time we see you by working really hard on this!" but was pretty sure that her prediction would be right. Our next appointment at the follow-up clinic will be sometime in February, and I can't wait to prove that therapist wrong. Elsie will be even stronger and faster by then. She continues to overcome her challenges and is proving everyone wrong all the time.
All of these amazing new developments started to take place right around Christmas time, and she is growing stronger and more confident in her new skills every day. Elsie is such a happy baby and it is so much fun to watch her learn new things. We just had her 12 month check up with the pediatrician, who is very pleased with her development. Elsie is weighing in at just under 17 pounds, and is about 26.5 inches long. For her actual age, she is just a little bit under the curve on the growth charts, but for her adjusted age (8 months) she is in about the 25th percentile for both height and weight. Considering that Miss Skinny-pants Evje was only 16 pounds and not on the curve at all when she turned one, I'm pretty happy with Elsie's growth.

There haven't been a lot of new changes with her feedings, just doing the same old stuff. Our feeding therapy appointment in December was cancelled because of a big snowstorm, so we don't get to see our fun therapist Helene until the end of January.

On Elsie's birthday, we kept things pretty low-key, considering that we are not supposed to have crowds around Elsie to protect her from RSV and other diseases. We had a small celebration with just the four of us, with cupcakes and a few presents. Elsie didn't eat her cupcake at all besides a few licks of the frosting on her fingers, despite the fact that it was cream cheese frosting which she has previously enjoyed. But we weren't expecting her to eat very much, so it wasn't too disappointing. And while we were singing happy birthday, Evje was throwing a fit and crying loudly because her cupcake did not have a birthday candle on it, so that was a special moment. And she didn't understand why Elsie got presents and she didn't, so we took a few of her already opened Christmas presents and wrapped them in a bit of newspaper so that Evje had some "presents" to open. Ahh, life is so confusing when you are two. Anyway, we're planning a birthday celebration for our families to join with us either in May or June. Maybe by then Elsie will be able to more fully enjoy some birthday cake.

Thanks for sticking with us during this eventful first year of Elsie's life! It's been quite a rollercoaster ride and we've been so thankful to have all of you supporting our little family.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Happy birthday Elsie!

One year ago, our day started out with this:

I was 23 weeks pregnant, and our cute little toddler Evje had a check-up at the pediatrician's office. I was hustling her out to the car so that we wouldn't be late. My hands were full with the diaper bag plus some other random stuff I was taking to the car, and my back was hurting, so being a mean mom, I made Evje walk to the car beside me. We had just gotten to the car, which was parked on the street, when Evje lost her footing and face-planted onto the pavement. She didn't put her hands out to catch herself because she was holding graham crackers, and her face caught the brunt of the fall. Poor baby! You can't see it very well in the picture, but she had a pretty good sized lump on her forehead. Anyway, we went to the doctor for her check-up and he made sure that her face was ok. I felt like the worst mom ever!

For the rest of the day, I just wasn't feeling right. I thought perhaps I was catching the cold that my husband and Evje had had earlier in the week. My back continued to ache, and I had gross amounts of mucus coming from "down there" when I used the bathroom. I took a nap when Evje was napping, but it didn't seem to help.

Looking back, it's easy to see that my back ache was actually early labor pains, and the mucus was actually my mucus plug. At the time, I honestly didn't know what was going on, but I was getting worried that something wasn't right. It had been such an easy pregnancy up until this point, so I never would have guessed what was about to happen.

Clayton and I went to the hospital just to get checked out, feeling very foolish, hoping that we were making a big deal out of nothing and would be sent home. I'll never forget the look on the nurse's face when she announced that I was already dilated to 6 cm. That was when I started getting scared.

Flying on the helicopter to Salt Lake City. I remember how painful it was to be strapped down on the gurney, lying on my back and unable to move into a comfortable position during contractions. I was so scared and desperately wanted comfort. I begged the nurse on the helicopter to hold my hand.

They wheeled me into the hospital and I saw a glimpse of my dear parents, waiting anxiously. Clayton hadn't arrived yet. In fact, neither he nor I had ever been to the University of Utah hospital before, and I was worried that he wouldn't be able to find it, especially in his current state of mind.

In the delivery room. No time for pain relievers. No time for a c-section, which would have helped protect her delicate body from the trauma of birth. The baby was on her way within moments of our arrival. I screamed with the agonizing pain. My mind was in anguish, wanting so desperately to keep my precious baby safe inside me, but my body was cruelly pushing her out.

Recovery. I felt empty. My hands kept creeping toward my belly, only to find nothing there. So thankful to finally have Clayton with me, as well as my parents, my sister, my brother. I was numb.

After several hours, we were given permission to see her. I didn't want to. I was scared to see the child who was born way, way too early. Her face and head were completely black with bruises, her extremely delicate blood vessels having been crushed during birth. Her eyes (still fused shut) were covered to protect them from the bilirubin lights.There were more machines, tubes, and wires coming from her tiny body then I thought possible. I searched desperately to find something, anything, that wasn't harmed or covered with machinery, something that would help me recognize that this was indeed my baby, and I suddenly found great comfort in her fingers and toes. All babies have fingers and toes, and so did Elsie, albeit extremely tiny ones. Here was something, something, that was normal.

We went through a lot during our NICU stay. Elsie was hospitalized for 160 days, that's about five and a half months, and was released on June 13, more than a month past her original due date of May 3. She had PDA ligation surgery on January 17, which was the repairing of an open valve in her heart. She suffered a Grade 2 bleed on the right side of her brain, and a Grade 4 bleed on the left, Grade 1 being minor and Grade 4 being the worst that it can be. Elsie contracted pneumonia when she was about six weeks old, or 29 weeks gestation. She developed Retinopathy of Prematurity, or ROP, which is an eye disease, and had two laser surgeries to prevent the disease from causing blindness. She struggled to learn how to eat by mouth and eventually developed an oral aversion, due to five and a half months of having tubes down her throat. This means that Elsie became uncomfortable with anything in or even near her mouth, including food. She had a gastrostomy tube placed, which is a feeding tube that goes directly from the outside of her abdomen into her stomach, bypassing her throat altogether.

A year later, we go to feeding therapy. We go to physical therapy. We go to opthamologist appointments. GI appointments. Neo-natal follow-up appointments. Monthly pediatrician appointments. Doctors appointments and therapy are a fact of life nowadays.

And yet, through it all, Elsie is thriving.

Elsie is a happy, easy-going baby who loves her mommy and daddy, adores her big sister, and likes to pet the doggies and take baths. She is more patient and determined than I have ever been. Her determination astonishes me. She has overcome so many challenges in her short life, and has amazed several doctors and medical professionals.

Elsie has blessed our lives in so many ways. She has brought our family together into a tight, cohesive unit, full of faith, full of prayers of thanksgiving. We have been blessed. We have seen miracles.

It has been quite the year. I don't know that I'd like to ever go through it again, but I wouldn't change any of our experiences. We have all grown so much because of Elsie's birth.

We love you, Elsie. Happy first birthday!