The Lasts

Last week, Ben had to set an alarm on his phone and when I heard it go off the first time, I almost jumped out of my skin.

To me, that was no regular sound, but rather THE sound that literally marked our time in the NICU, as it was his phone that kept track of just how long it had been since we last fed the baby or I last took my medicine. Day and night, those were the bells that we worked toward and through, not knowing how many more times we’d have to set them before our wish to come home was granted.

We did that for three weeks. And bless it, now Wilson is three months old and we’ve been home for well more than double of the time that we weren’t here. NICU parents: is it weird that I’m still counting that time or is that another NICU thing? Because I can literally look at the calendar and be thankful in an instant again that we’ve put that many dates between being there and being home. (Disclaimer: I don’t hate the NICU. Yes, I’m still shaking it off myself at times, but obviously if your baby needs to be there, you are hella grateful that it exists and can help you get to the point of shaking off and being home.)

At three months, Wilson continues to charm us all on a constant basis. She sleeps – in my arms, in her rock-n-play, in her bed – pretty much wherever and whenever. She eats – almost always in our favorite rocking chair where I can watch the little boys play Wrestle Mania on the bed that sits in that same room. She smiles – ALL the time at ALL of us and it literally the best thing ever, every single time. She talks – OK, coos and makes this little noise that sounds like “whoo whoo” just like her sister’s owl friend, and again, hearts melting left and right each time it happens.

At three months, Wilson also continues to surprise us with her growth. Unlike her sister (one of my two babies who stayed in the 8th percentile for.ev.er), Sister Wilson is gaining and stretching like crazy. She’s up to just shy of 13 lbs. and is so long that she’s already outgrown the 0-3 month clothes. So while it was just a wee month ago that I finally pulled out the baby girl stuff from the basement, I’ve already had to go digging again because she’s too long for all the stuff Raegan wore her first winter (and she was almost three weeks ahead of WA on the calendar). And because Big Sister stayed little for so long, I hit a bit of a season snafu in that next sized bin which lead me to make a quick Target order for some 3-6 sleepers to get us through the rest of this crazy-arse cold weather that I would very much like to see end and soon, thanks.

I mention all of this not to bore you with details about my online shopping habits, but to document that not all reminders of our time in Omaha are triggers in the negative way. img_9238Meaning? Well, these sleepers. They are the exact same set (but one size bigger) that we bought for her on one of those after-hospital Target runs in the first few days at Children’s. She wore them all the time there and since we’ve been home. They are beautiful and soft (and zip from the top down which I have never seen before but is incredibly smart and great for keeping tummies warm and covered) and I don’t feel like jumping out of my skin when I see them.

Actually, what I do feel like I’m doing with this new set is my darndest to hang on to those moments of being small and new because for the first time, I know that I am actually doing all of this for the last time.

The thought of tossing those 0-3 month sleepers in a tote and just moving on with it caught me off guard because the next time I dig through those clothes will be to sell or give away, not for one of my own babies, and that hit me harder than I expected it to. So I’m totally slapping a Band-Aid on the situation by putting her in the exact same outfits one size up, but I’ll take it because this is my version of enjoying what truly are the lasts.

I may not be able to pull off the “enjoy EVERY MOMENT” thing that every young mother has heard at some point in her young mamahood, but I certainly am soaking in as much as I can because I get it. Our family will not grow and stretch again, but you can bet these babies of mine are going to keep on doing just that.

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Theory Testing

“It’s just hair.”
“It will grow back.”

These are statements I have said many times in my years of coloring, chopping, and growing back out my hair. And really, I’ve lived by them for darn near 35 years, but I had to laugh just now because instead of lived, my computer autocorrected whatever the heck I typed to “lied” which seems fitting since I am now very much rethinking my hair mottos.

Actually, that’s not true either.img_8954

The mottos hold. It really is just hair and it really will grow back (eventually anyway). But after chopping off 12″ last week, which equaled pretty much ALL of my length, to donate, I have found myself very much testing and tested by those comments that I have made many, many a time in the past. As with any test, a few lessons have been learned.

 

  1. I am apparently way more attached to my hair than I previously understood. The fact is, I don’t think this is a bad cut. I just don’t think it is my cut. As in, I don’t know whose hair I am currently sporting on my head, but it has yet to look like “mine” whenever I catch sight of it in a mirror (and we are five days in, so that’s weird). I find this ironic considering that we went full-on pixie straight away to get the length to donate so someone else can indeed wear my hair. And all this, despite the fact that my family and friends have been very sweet and kind in response to the cut even though I didn’t tell any of them about it in advance! RL adores it and Ben keeps complimenting it, and I agree – great cut. but not my cut! lol.
  2. When you want to preemptively strike against post-baby hair loss (oh man, it’s so bad, isn’t it, mamas?!), perhaps wait until some of it begins to fall out so you know what you are actually working with before cutting. Because we took off SO much length/weight and did so while I still have a TON of hair, I now have some very, very free locks/curls that basically just poof to the sky every time I touch them, which is often as I’m still trying to figure out this do (and how to do it). I think once it actually thins out, it will feel less bizarre on top of my head, but in the meantime, I am going to have to start sitting on my hands so I don’t turn the cut into a Chia pet every day.
  3. If you feel the need to do a pixie (an idea I’ve been flirting with for a couple years), aim for summer. It turns out that (duh) January in Nebraska is a terrible time to chop off all the hair that keeps the back of your head and neck warm in the midst of sub-zero winter weather!! While I haven’t yet slept in a hood, I have been curling the sheets up around my noggin at night because oh my gosh – I am sooooo extra cold!!

So, let the regrowth of this “just” hair begin. I wonder how long (literally) it will be before it feels like mine again!

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The pic I sent some girlfriends after I got home from my appointment. That’s my “trying to hold shocked laughter back” face! 

Time Keeps On…

Slippin’, Slippin’, Slippin’…into the future….

Sorry if that means that song is stuck in your head the rest of the day, but I’m right there with ya, humming away and ruminating on all that was and is and will be. I guess the start of a new year (and a new family life) is a pretty mind- and time-bending season of life, so it really doesn’t feel that far off base to say that we are slip sliding our way into 2018 and time is a fluid, flukey thing. Is that really so bad? I think it’s more just what is.

As you may have noticed, in the weeks since we’ve been home from Omaha, I’ve had much less time to write. There was nothing terribly restful about our time at Children’s, but it did mean that we weren’t doing the all-day/all-night with five Littles to care for (and meals to feed and laundry to wash and so on and so on), so while we were very much on a newborn feeding/pumping schedule, I did have/take “down time” to write. I had to for survival.

And while nothing has changed in regards to the importance of writing for me, much has changed in regards to how much down time I have here at home – and this is even with Christmas break and Ben still having a few days to take off from school for parental leave.

Side notes about life as the spouse of a teacher: I love breaks. I love having my coparent home and a part of our bustling house. I love snow days for the same reason – they equal Family Time. But I do NOT love how many hours he has to pour into sub plans to be gone. The amount of time he spent prepping just to not teach while we were in Omaha was insane. And for every parental day “off” he gets, he spends almost all of the evening prior doing the same thing, with hours upon hours spent at school getting everything ready. Anyone with a connection to education knows that teachers often say it is easier to just be there than to try to get ready for a sub, and wow, have we felt the effect of that since Wilson’s birth. Please don’t mistake a teacher being gone as a vacation. I promise you they very much have paid the price in terms of time and stress and effort prior to (and after) that leave. *end rant*

Being home now means doing all the newborn things AND toddler AND preschooler AND school agers things, and then the grownup things. And you know the adulting kind of  grownup things have to come first, so as per usual, the self-care grownup things take a backseat, which might explain why we once got through all the Omaha/holiday/family obligations of the last six weeks, I got slammed on Sunday with germ bugs.

It was *just* a low-grade fever and a sinus headache, that on Monday morphed into a can’t-hardly-move headache, but are you kidding me? Being sick as a parent is tough enough, but you add in a nursing schedule where you are the one doing all the nursing, and sickness somehow manages to suck even more. And all those adulting things? They don’t just go away. In fact, when the primary “house person” goes down, that shit just gets worse (walking in to our laundry room today where the laundry chute sends all the dirty clothes that I have ignored the last few days was disheartening, to say the least).

You see, I thought I would get to use these last few days to catch up around the house before Ben goes back to work full-time. You know, be extra prepared for the chaos that will be living one-day-to-the-next as a SAHM of five Littles 8 and Under (not to mention business owner, but thankfully we’re just going to table that for a bit). But no, the fever and headache said “Nope” to those plans, and instead all I’ve really accomplished the last two days has been watching most of Season Three of Fuller House (bless it, I love it so). And feeding the baby because that is clearly Job No. 1 in terms of importance.

Such is life, this finding of balance between responsibility/obligation and nourishment. And survival. Because let’s face it, Survival Mode is going to be the name of the game for however much amount of slippery time we need it to be. There’s just no other choice. That doesn’t mean we can’t all continue to thrive, but clearly there is going to need to be a BOAT-load of grace dumped all over plans and expectations of exactly what that looks like. For now, it looks a lot like this:

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All Together Now

After all the hustle and bustle of landing home and then getting through Ben’s last week of school for the semester AND then the excitement/hubbub of Christmas, we have finally had the last few days to just be as a family of seven in our own space, without anything extra pressing or even on the calendar for that matter!

Take yesterday, for example.

It was a whopping, what – 5 degrees – outside? So really, the perfect day to stay warm and cozy indoors (and in pajamas), so that’s exactly what we did. No one went anywhere, not even outside to play in the snow because BRRRR!

Instead we napped (well, WA, TJ, and B and I did, anyway) and had screen time and played games and even managed to squeeze in Mama/Daddy Time with each of the Big 3 (not that Trumy doesn’t count; it’s just that he can’t count yet and therefore has no concept of time/taking turns with this stuff, plus he finds plenty of ways to have his own time with us).

Now, we’re not very good about doing this as often as we should, but much like a Mama or Daddy Date, M/D Time means each kid gets undivided attention individually with each parent for a set amount of time. I.E. 15 minutes to do whatever you want (minus screens) with one parent and no extra kids. That sounds incredibly minimal and simplistic (it is), but you’d be amazed at how hard it is to pull off because you have to have the other parent available to keep said wandering sibs away from your special time and it easily takes at least an hour+ to get the three 15-minute sessions accomplished. And then when you’re trying to do time with both parents in one day, well, there’s your afternoon, folks!

Although it felt like we dropped back into home life in a ding-dang whirlwind of mid-December chaos, I am so glad it’s the holiday break and we have the opportunity to be doing these “do nothing” days filled with whatever whims our kids or we can conjure. Of course it is not paradise and we are having as many kid squabbles as the next family cooped up in the same house day after day, hiding from the cold, but bless it, we needed this time together to acclimate, to regroup, to adjust back to our own “normal” after Wilson’s wild arrival.

As a friend pointed out to me last week, part of this normal is that we’re a Together Family. And it’s so true. We do the majority of our stuff together and the majority of it is close to home. That’s just how we roll (by not rolling much of anywhere sometimes). So the whole Omaha/Hastings split was extra hard because none of us are used to having one parent gone for any extended amount of time, much less both and for so long.

Since we’ve been home, I’ve noticed some residuals from our separation, mainly in the form of questions coming from The Middles about our (Ben and mine) whereabouts. Lincoln is terribly concerned, in the way of any good 4yo who can ask the same question 10 times a day, every day for a week straight, about our upcoming return trip to see Wilson’s surgeon in Omaha. He wants to know exactly how many sleeps we’ll be gone (none; it’s a day trip) and he’s got to ask at least four times to clarify that when we say zero sleeps we MEAN zero sleeps. And Raegan, too, had a moment during our newborn photos, when the baby and I weren’t quite done and ready to follow them home, where she turned to me, eyebrows raised and concern in her voice as she asked, “Mama, when are you coming home?”

These aren’t concerns we’ve had to field in the past because prior to November 22, the question of “When will Mama and Daddy be home?” was a nonissue. We were just always, more or less, together.

And thankfully, that is now the case once again, so much so that even in the multi-levels of our house, we can end up all in the exact same corner of the living room as a total coincidence of Family Time.

I wouldn’t have it any other way. img_8831

Great/Gray Expectations

I get it. This time of year can be hard on anyone (everyone?). There is so blessed much going on with programs and parties and holiday activities, not to mention self-proscribed traditions and To Do lists and preparations (house, gifts, food, etc.) that can suck up all our time and energy in December.

This year feels especially confusing because I didn’t even realize it really WAS December until we landed at home in the late afternoon of 12/14 and even if you’re like me and not a math-er, you can see by those numerals that we missed half the month of getting our heads, hearts, and house ready for this special time of year. And, quite honestly, I’m pretty pissed at time right now because the three weeks we lost in Omaha are messing with me.

Now, to be clear….when I say “lost” I do not mean wasted. We did exactly what we needed to do for Wilson by being where we were for as long as we were (OK, still would have liked to have been home waaaay sooner, but that’s OK, Baby Girl – you are an excellent bus driver and we were happy to comply since it meant we got to bring you home at all). And in the grand scheme of things, three weeks is a drop in the bucket of time/a year/a life, and I am very much aware of people who stay longer or graduate to other parts of the hospital or live daily with illness and medical complications.

Awareness and heartbreak for those situations do not change, however, the fact that my own postpartum experience with Willa was nothing I ever anticipated, much less prepared for or knew how to navigate, and now that we are through it, I don’t know how to do what I’m doing now, either, which is trying to figure out life back in my house and with my five children and all in the week prior to Christmas during which my husband is teaching full-time because of Finals. It all feels like a bit much, you know?

Enter the Great Expectations. I know my kids don’t really care what they get for Christmas and that if we don’t do All. The. Things. we have done in Christmas’ Past, they will live (and trust me, they all have elephant memories, so they will remember). Even I don’t have huge expectations of what Christmas should be or look like, but the fact that it is suddenly upon us and I’ve had no time to ease into that, much less newborn life, is hard.

And enter the Gray Expectations, which is how I feel about our homecoming and what I think people are maybe expecting of me which is to be gushing with happiness right now. The number one question I am getting, and understandably so, is, “How is it to be home?!” and it is my response to that that feels so loaded. The answer is more complicated than “good” but not everyone wants/needs to hear that and I don’t actually need to start crying every time I talk to someone about it, so what do I do?

A “good/yes” response is true.

A “hard/overwhelmed” one is as well.

And I think it’s just going to be like that for a while as we take time to unpack our bags from the hospital, find all the baby odds and ends around the house that we need, and deal with the see-saw of emotions that come with any newborn adjustment, much less one post-NICU, and yes, prepare for Christmas, too.

I wish there was a more compact way to include that in my answer to the No.1 question these days, but none of this is black and white, and as with any parenting journey, there’s no manual, either, so the best we – I – can do is to keep trying and talking (OK, mostly writing) about the “tossed in the deep end” moments, for how else do we hope to make any progress to our new normal?

Good and Hard. Great and Gray. All of these things, and so much more are a part of this time and this sweet Little One’s story. And so, we carry on.

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Re-Entry

Bless it, my friends, we are finally home! I apologize if we were a little mum and sneaky during our last 24 hours at the hospital, but things started coming at us quickly, and we were just happy to comply and get the heck out of there as quickly as we could once that ball started rolling!

img_8569It began Wednesday afternoon with the Charge Nurse coming to tell us we could move into the Transition Room that afternoon. This is the before-home room that has its own door and bathroom (um! Hello and thank you!!) and a place for two people to sleep (due to other rules on the Unit, the other two nights we slept at the hospital with Willa actually meant me sleeping on a pull-out chairbed (that was acquired only by giving up my rocking chair) and Ben sleeping on the bench/couch thing in the waiting room. Nooooot exactly ideal). So we booked it over to the Rainbow House were we quickly packed up our stuff and checked out of there so we could spend the final two nights in the TR instead. The Rainbow House has a waiting list right now, so we were very happy to give up our spot for some other family in need of close lodging, and a couple nights early, to boot.

It surprised us how different the new room felt and we spent the rest of Wednesday evening getting semi-settled and ready to get Wilson through another night of feeds because we REALLY needed her to show a weight gain by 7:00a Thursday morning as this was the one thing the doc was really looking for after letting her go ad lib on nursing Wednesday. For our sanity’s sake, we kept up with the before/after weights on each feeding because the last thing we wanted was a surprise (in a bad way) Thursday morning!

True to #WonderWilson form, Baby Girl rocked it and even added an extra feeding in there, making her 7-7 total for her first day with no NG supplementation a whopping 94% intake via the breast. Amazing (& as a friend pointed out, good dang thing I have a lot of dang milk!)!!

We saw her doctor in the hall Thursday morning and gave him the good news (she did indeed gain by her official weigh time Wednesday night) and then while we were eating breakfast in the waiting room, our nurse came by to tell us that she’d heard a rumor we might be going home that day instead of Friday.

As you might imagine, our hearts leapt at this and we got

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right to it with sending out all the hopes and wishes and prayers that that might actually happen, which we found out less than two hours later was very much indeed the case!

Because Willa showed so much progress and aptitude for feeding these last few days, and everything else had been cleared and done, they saw no need to keep her for one more day/night just to prove she could go home. So pack we did and by noon Thursday we were officially in our van, driving away from Children’s for Wilson’s very first car ride. HOME.

We could not wait to surprise the Bigs after school! And we couldn’t wait to surprise all of you with this fun and fantastic news, too!

From here, we know we enter a new period of chaos. Of course it is a much better, more familiar kind of chaos, but we still have a lot of adjustment to do as a not-so-little family. Not only do we have to recover and regroup after three weeks of crazy separation, we have to do the typical “Hi! There’s a new person in our house!” stuff which can be interesting even without such a wild, disjointed start.

To be perfectly honest, we’re probably going to hunker down a bit, and we hope you’ll understand if we’re not really out and about or big on visits right now. It’s not that we don’t want you to meet our Sweet Wonder Girl – we very much do – but we also want to stay mindful of many things right now including Cold & Flu season (our doctor flat out told us to avoid crowds and playing “pass the baby” anywhere) as well as the fact that we’re probably going to need about as many weeks as we had at the hospital here at home before we really feel settled. And while we’re flying high on adrenaline and love right now, I’ll warn you that there may be days when I flat out can’t talk about it because the whole thing has been surreal and it is going to take time to process before I can maybe have normal conversations about it all. Please don’t take it personally if I 1) burst into tears and/or 2) change the subject on you the next time I see you!

Please also know that I will continue to post updates and pictures for you and that we appreciate so very much all of your continued support up to and beyond this point in Willa’s story. You all stepped up to help and provide and love on us when we needed it the most and even though it took longer to get home than we hoped, we know you all helped us get here as smoothly and quickly as possible.

And a huge shout out and thank you for understanding as we give Wilson and all the Bigs (and ourselves) time, space, and grace on this much-anticipated, much-appreciated time of re-entry. Besides trying to acclimate back to our own house, we’re trying to do as much of this (line-free snuggles) as possible: img_8641

Go Fly

After a handful of steady days of a steady plan (and slow but steady progress), we hit a hiccup with Wilson’s feeding that started Saturday overnight and definitely carried over through last night and this (Monday #3) morning.

As you might imagine, any sort of setback at this point is pretty frustrating because we NEED that steady progress to happen in order to go home, so B and I hit the ground running this morning with the attitude of “What can we do to turn this around (and no offense to the nice folks of Children’s, but…) to get the heck out of here?!” Thankfully some of those nice folks are very much on the same wavelength as us and so a new approach was hatched.

Starting tonight we will not be sleeping at the Rainbow House. Instead, we’ll be here in the room with Wilson for the next 48 hours, breastfeeding around the clock (instead of the bottle feeds that had been happening overnight) in hopes that that is what it takes to get enough in her system so we can meet those benchmarks that actually get us out the door. So, essentially, we are going to do a normal newborn schedule in the most not-normal environment and pray that it works (and works well)!

Hence the feather. img_8132

Confused? Let me do my best to explain…

Remember the Tembo post and Wilson’s animal connection to the elephant? But also how she had previously been tagged as a bird because of all the feathers I saw during pregnancy?

After I shared that post, a friend wrote to me about the symbiotic relationship between elephants and birds which I had forgotten about until she brought it up, but as soon as she did, my brain instantly clicked to the thought: allllllll of those feathers I saw were still signs, just not for the baby, but for her helpers (Still with me? I promise, this does all make sense). Remember in Dumbo how he uses the feather to boost his confidence enough to “fly” for the circus act? That feather was his helper and all of you have been Willa’s (as well as our) feathers in the last three weeks, helping us navigate as best we could through our family’s biggest time of challenge and need.

Seriously. We could not have made it this far without your love, prayers, messages, meals, rides, letters, gifts, and all the other goodness you have sent our way.

And now we are calling on our feather-helpers for what we hope is one last big push to get over the hump with feeding so we can go home to do actual newborn things in an actual normal environment because that would truly be the greatest blessing of all. Please keep those hearts and prayers lifted, your fingers and toes crossed, and all the good vibes coming because our Little Miss is so, so ready to fly.