Tuesday, June 23, 2009

In the Trenches

Yesterday, we had some friends over to meet their one-month-old little boy. It was also the first time they'd met Lexie.

Their little guy is pretty much the same size as Lexie, who is now over five months old. But he was over 10 pounds (!) when he was born (vaginal delivery!), and Lexie didn't hit 10 pounds until last month.

We'd lost touch with these friends for a couple of years. When I heard they'd had a baby, I sent them a congratulations email and gave our story in a nutshell. My friend wrote back with theirs. They'd lost their first baby, a boy, at 22 weeks to a devastating heart defect, and that pregnancy was followed by another miscarriage before they finally succeeded in having a baby.

Somehow, hearing that they'd had trouble too -- that they hadn't sailed easily into parenthood -- made me feel that we were allied with them, like we're together on some big IF team. It's the friends who've had difficulties that I find it easier to relate to, easier to keep in touch with.

I'm sure that, over the years, the whole painful process of becoming parents will recede into the haze of the past, but right now, it's very raw, and when I'm with those friends, I know we won't find ourselves inadvertently smacked in the face (metaphorically) by some remark made in total innocence by those who haven't been on the IF rollercoaster. Even questions about whether we want to have more kids would have to result in a long explanation.

I could always use the generic response of "You'll be the first to know." But frankly, I'm already tired of using that one from our pre-baby days.

I don't know -- I'm having trouble really expressing my feelings about this. It's not fair to pull away from some friends just because they had an easy time having a family. But then, life's not fair, right? For now, it's nice just to stick with the people on my team.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Pup Update: He's Doing Better!

Barkley is on the mend and doing better! Thanks everyone for your good wishes.

Snakebite in Mississippi

My mother-in-law has had a tough time over the past few years. My father-in-law is sick and she's his primary caretaker and the family breadwinner. It's created a lot of stress. Two years ago, her mom (Grandma Sara) passed away. She was pretty low. And then, when we were at the cemetery looking for a good spot for Grandma Sara's remains, we found a little puppy.

My mother-in-law took him home and named him Barkley. He has been a bright spot during a very dark time, as my father-in-law has continued to decline. Barkley made himself at home on their farm, getting his exercise attempting to herd the feral cats. He has grown up to look kind of like a half-corgi, half-spaniel (below right is a recent photo sent via cell from my mother-in-law). His breed is one that was never meant to be. As Steve's brother-in-law says, "his parents made a mistake." But he's always been a good dog.

Today, I was rocking Lexie (post-projectile vomit) and I received a text message from my mother-in-law. It said only:
Barkley got bit by a poisonous snake this AM.

I texted her back:
What happened to him?

As I waited a long 10 minutes for her answer, I thought back to when we found him, tiny and alone in the cemetery, obviously abandoned and so eager to be part of our little pack. And I thought about how he's helped my mother-in-law cope since he joined the family. He's so little, I thought, how could he survive that? He must be dead. And she can't bring herself to say it. I teared up. I know that life's not fair, and that bad shit happens to good people all the time. But please, I thought -- Barkley's story cannot end this way. This cannot happen to my mother-in-law after all she's been through and continues to endure.

She finally texted back. She'd rushed him to the emergency vet. Two shots and a pile of medications later, he came home for observation with instructions for my mother-in-law to call if he didn't seem improved tomorrow. The vet said he'd seen dogs survive worse. My mother-in-law reports that he's listless and won't eat or drink.

Please cross your fingers that little Barkley's story has many more chapters.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

"Fragile" Baby

Thursday night, I went solo to the baptism class offered by our Catholic church. We aren't sure when we'll get Lexie baptized, because church was one of two places doctors told us never to bring her, because of the multitude of germs swarming about. (Grocery stores are the other off-limits category.) We were hoping to get the baptism done this summer, if it fits in the church's schedule. But we weren't sure -- we are still thinking of waiting until next summer, by which time her immune system should be caught up with those of her peers.

During the class, the instructor mentioned something about "a private baptism," which would be for sick babies or baptisms that expect a very large crowd. After the class, I approached the instructor and mentioned Lexie's prematurity and weak immune system, asking if this was an appropriate reason to schedule a private baptism.

"Oh," she replied. "You have a fragile baby?"

For a split second, my mouth hung open. I was at a loss for a response. What the heck does that mean, a "fragile baby"? I sure didn't want to answer in the affirmative.

So I burst out laughing, tears collecting in the corners of my eyes.

And the awkwardness descended upon us like a cloud.

Then I explained that I didn't like to think of my daughter as fragile, although she does need a little extra help and protection. I think the woman was a little chagrined at the exchange. She did say that we could probably arrange a private ceremony, although scheduling could be a challenge.

But I keep thinking about the term fragile. She was definitely fragile when we brought her home. I was terrified that she'd just stop breathing, or that I'd drop her and mortally wound her tiny body.

But now she seems pretty hardy.

Fragile? I don't know. What do you think? Is there a better term out there?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Bus Stop

My homey Lacey recently started up a blog about her daily bus ride: The 167 Short Bus. It's hilarious and profane and it's funny because it's true.

I hate riding the bus. My problem generally is the hygiene of the clientele.

I never rode a public bus until I went to college in Syracuse, NY. My friend Nicole and I used to sometimes take the city bus back from our internships downtown. We had to wait at the sketchy downtown bus depot on S. Salina St., sometimes for a long while if we'd just missed a bus. There were a lot of "special" people also waiting for the bus -- apparently there was some sort of substandard last-stop mental health facility on one of the bus lines. Usually they were pleasant and harmless, but some of them really weren't prepared to be out on their own and did not handle it well. There were also the standard drunken unwashed in the pool of riders, and dirty lecherous men, as well. We tried to avoid the bus when we could, but sometimes the snow was piled too high for us to hoof it.

So this one spring (read: cold, snowy and miserable) afternoon, Nicole and I were walking up to wait for our bus when we saw this guy who appeared to be following us. We kept walking around the bus stop and so did he. And then we noticed he had this foot-long string of green snot swinging from his nose. We continued around the bus stop one more time with him about 10 paces behind us, the snot string turning into a three-foot-long rope. Swing. Swing. Swing. We then realized he planned to circle the bus stop regardless of whether we were fleeing in front of him, and we stepped to the side. We cringed against the glass of the bus stop as he loped past us, and although we tried not to look, both of us saw the final few swings of the snot rope. It didn't fall to the ground; no, it swung full-on into the front his grubby navy blue parka and sealed itself to the fabric.

Our bus came shortly after that, and he did not board. As I remember it, Nicole and I elected to walk the mile or so back to campus after our internships for the rest of the semester.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Hello From the Nursery...

I'll be spending large chunks of time this week in Lexie's room as she gets accustomed to her crib. She's starting to fill a lot of her little bassinet (at least lengthwise), and, much as I like the security of having her right by me at night, I know it's getting to be time to move her into her own digs.

For now, we're just working on naps. The first one this morning had a rocky start. I put her down, all swaddled and sleepy, and she suddenly decided it was time to party. She turned on her 1,000 watt smile (see below) and started cooing like a champ. But I know that game. That's the game that ends with no real naps all day and a pissed-off baby by 7pm. We don't like that game. So I popped in the paci, and turned on some white noise, and we started playing the game where she spits out the paci and whimpers, seemingly just to see if I'm still here and waiting to pop the paci back in. After about 20 minutes, she actually dropped off. Now it's afternoon-nap time. She's not so good at afternoon naps regardless of sleep location, so we'll see how it goes. Right now we're playing the "drop the paci" game again.

Good times, good times.

I'm sitting in the room with her not just because I want to play her little games, but also because I worry about her. Her bassinet still has a special motion-detector monitor hooked up to it. It was this monitor that finally allowed me to sleep at night (instead of staring at her all night long to ensure she was still breathing). The first couple of weeks home from the hospital were really scary, and her breathing was noticeably uneven. When we left the hospital, we left without a hospital monitor. In spite of my repeated questions and requests, they sent us away completely unplugged, saying that Lexie's breathing was so great it would just be a waste.

When we got home, I was a nervous wreck. I credit this product with preserving my sanity: AngelCare Movement Sensor With Sound Monitor (see photo below). With this monitor, I could be sure that if Lexie did stop breathing for 15 seconds or more, I (or Steve) would be immediately alerted to the event and could take action right away.

The 15-second warning beep has gone off twice, waking me up in the middle of the night. I just had to lightly shake Lexie and she started breathing again. She probably would have been fine anyway, but who knows? Her breathing is much better now, but you can't be too careful.

Although Lexie is now over 5 months old, she's closer to 3 months gestationally. Babies between 2 and 4 months of age are at the highest risk for SIDS, and by some statistics preemies have 80 times the risk of full-term babies (although the exact stat depends on the study). So I'm not taking any chances. Once we're ready to put her in the crib to sleep at night, the motion sensor will move to the crib. In the meantime, I monitor her the old-fashioned way during the day.

I'm dreading putting her in her crib at night. I think I'm going to find myself going to her room at every whimper, at least for the first week or so. Even though it's not a long walk, it takes a lot more energy to go down the hall than it takes to pop myself up on an elbow, look down into her bassinet (pushed next to the bed each night), and assess the situation.

We need to start working on this now because I'm going back to work July 13. Lexie's nanny is scheduled to start July 6. I say "is scheduled to start" rather than "is starting" because I noticed (when I went to hide our nanny-seeking profile on the site where we found her) that her job-seeking-nanny profile is still active. I'm hoping she's just looking for interim work, versus looking for a better offer. Even if she does find something else, though, the job market for nannies is so bad that we shouldn't have *too* much trouble finding someone else.

At least, that's what we're hoping. Fingers crossed...

Monday, June 1, 2009

At Her Own Pace

Soon after I found out I was pregnant, I heard through the grapevine that a colleague was pregnant as well. Her due date was just a week after mine. She had a very easy pregnancy, and her baby was born at full term, which would have been a week after Lexie's due date had all gone well. Instead, Lexie was almost 11 weeks old.

Preemies mature at kind of a staggered rate. You can't simply say, "well, it's two months after her due date so she should be on track with those milestones." In some areas, she's a little bit ahead of her gestational age (her age calculated from her due date instead of her actual birthday), but in others, she's behind. I do understand that all babies mature at a different rate, but we have to be more vigilant for any sort of delays. (Luckily, Lexie is eligible for all sorts of help if she falls behind substantially - starting at 4 months [gestational] she will be monitored by specialists and will be referred for more help if she needs it, up to age 4.)

For the most part, I really am ok with relaxing as Lexie develops at her own pace. I know that the important thing is that she is here and healthy. But this weekend, that colleague posted a Facebook update about her baby "having a conversation with herself," and that made me kind of sad. Lexie makes cooing noises, but nothing as sustained as that, and if she's not interacting with a grown-up she's just as likely to be quiet. Or to be whimpering for some attention.

Of course I immediately went online and found "Eight Ways to Improve Your Baby's Verbal Skills," briefed Steve on the techniques, and we spent the rest of the weekend narrating our every move to her. "Now it's time to change your diaper! Here is the new diaper. See, I'm putting it under your old diaper..."

We know it's a little ridiculous. We really aren't trying to create some type-A overacheiver. We just want her to have every chance possible to catch up to her peers before any delay starts to become noticeable in preschool and kindergarten. We will do everything we can.

In physical size, she continues to make great strides. Her length was on the chart for her true age at her 4-month doctor's appointment a couple of weeks ago - she was in the 16th percentile. She still was underweight though - even for her gestational age she was still pretty light, probably due to a litany of digestive issues we've been working out. But we can see so many major changes when we think back to how she looked in January.

When she was born, she was 10 weeks early, weighed 3 pounds 11 oz., and was 16 5/8 inches long. During delivery, she had been severely bruised all over the right side of her head, her upper torso and right arm. Where she wasn't bruised, you could see that she was yellow and jaundiced. She had a thin layer of downy hair all over her back and shoulders (it's called the lanugo). She was so skinny - there was no baby fat on her at all, because that's what the third trimester is for. Her eyelashes were invisible unless you could get within a few inches to see tiny colorless feathery lashes, more of a suggestion than anything else. Her cheeks were almost gaunt. Her fingers looked so long and delicate, without any baby chubb to fill them out. Her fingernails were the size of sesame seeds. She didn't really have any nipples yet - they develop between 32 and 34 weeks in utero. Her little bottom was almost flat. Her legs were so scrawny that it looked like she was wearing another baby's too-big leg skin. Without any fat on her belly or around her legs, her girl parts stood out like a Mr. Potato Head piece.

(I fully realize that someday she may kill me for writing those last few details.)

At her 4-month appointment, she weighed 10 pounds and was 23 1/4 inches long. Although she's still a little peanut, all her parts are looking pretty normal. Her right eyelid still has red streaks on it from the birth injury, but it's operating the way it's supposed to be. Her eyelashes are now long and dark. My favorite thing is her little almost-chubby bum. Everytime I change her diaper I want to give it a little pat.

It's funny the things you appreciate.