Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Monday, March 26, 2012

Pinterest. It's What's for Dinner. #1

The best of:

I pinned these because, according to the people of Pinterest, these are the best ever chocolate chip cookies. We're big critics over here at the Wilson household. Cookies are practically a food group-- at least to my husband who was caught eating packaged cookies literally as I was putting these on the cookie sheet. I'd have to say, though...these were not amazing. I'm actually not even sure I'd make them again, but they don't go into the "terrible" category either. Just meh. I brought some over to a friend's house and I asked her what was wrong with them and she told me it was the sweetness factor. Perhaps more sugar needed? The "secret" ingredient of cornstarch gave them an interesting flavor, I think.

The batter was really fluffy-- almost like soft serve ice cream.

Weber Vegetable Grill Basket
I was making roasted asparagus this week and thought of how I needed to own a BBQ veggie basket so I didn't have to roast my small or cut veggies in the oven during the summertime.

I bought this on Amazon and it was on my doorstep the next day. I cannot wait to try it out! I've been wanting one of these ever since my friend's husband made us dinner one evening-- he BBQ'ed the green beans and I think they were the best I've ever had. Apparently you can even put marinated pieces of meat/seafood and marinated veggies in here. I'm also thinking fish tacos, veggie burgers that don't always hold up well on the grill, and pineapple chunks! We will be testing it out this week.
Source: via Brandy on Pinterest

These people think I care about this.

Aromatic Noodles with Lime Peanut Sauce
Made this with onions, broccoli, string beans, carrots, fresh ginger, fresh garlic, fresh lime juice, and peanut butter. Mmm. It was good but must add sauce right before eating, otherwise the noodles will soak in the sauce and it will be dry. Unless you add gobs of oil-- which I have a hard time recommending.

Frozen Yogurt Drops
I saw these a few times and decided to pin because I had two containers of yogurt with expirations drawing near. I didn't want to waste them and knew I could freeze them in larger discs of yogurt for single-serve use in smoothies. It was hugely successful and a great way to save some cash buying the yogurt that is about to expire in 2-3 days for half price at the grocery store. And a bonus is that it adds the chill and slightly icy consistency I love in smoothies.

Still in the queue:

No-Bake Strawberry Icebox Cake 
This is made with graham crackers, a whole lot of whipping cream, strawberries, chocolate ganache, and a few other ingredients. It looks elegant and I cannot wait to make it. I was thinking about making it for our neighbors. I'll keep you posted.

Chocolate Nachos
These remind me of the nachos we had over Christmas when we visited South Padre Island, TX.

Creamy Avocado Yogurt Dip
I love avocados. There are certain foods that I don't consider unhealthy, no matter the fat content. Avocados, nuts, yogurt, and hummus are all on the list. It's loaded with protein as it's made with greek yogurt-- something I don't love plain but it makes a great base to replace the sour cream in many recipes and dips! My only apprehension with this recipe is wasting two whole avocados if I don't like it. Hah.

Sweet Potato Cakes with Sour Cream and Chipotle Black Bean Salsa
I'm just starting to jump on the sweet potato bandwagon. I've been a skeptic my whole life because I always hated how people prepared them so sweet. I'm not one to like my vegetables coated in sugar and marshmallows. I just assumed that was the only way people ever made them, so I avoided. And once again, my friend's husband (also known as "gourmet husband") came to the rescue and made these amazing, spicy sweet potatoes. I loved them. And recently I've had them in the version of french fries and loved them as well. I'll be honest though-- a regular ol' russet potato still tastes better to me, but at least I'm branching out!

Roasted, Spiced Chickpeas
Here's another item I don't loooove. Chickpeas. I love them smashed, but for some reason I don't love to eat them whole. I'm hoping this little recipe will bring some edge to the ol' garbanzo bean. Crunchy = good. Spicy = good. Virtually fat free = good. Can't go wrong, right?

Make anything exceptional based on a Pinterest recommendation lately? It really is my favorite way to document recipes I've made and want to make.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

In the Wee Hours of the Morning

Scene: Baby cries and attempts to break free of his amazing, miraculous swaddle blanket for the 24,986th time. This time, he wants food. Husband picks him up from the co-sleeper and changes him before handing him off to me in bed for a feeding. Baby is fed and put back into his super secure blanket made for none other than crazy babies who flail their arms like lunatics. Baby is back in the co-sleeper attempting to break free once again, but instead grunting as loud as his little body will allow. A conversation begins.

Husband: So how are you doing in the head?

Me: Um, okay. I had a PTSD moment yesterday.

Husband: What about?

Me: I was driving home from Danielle's and looked in the rear view mirror at B in the back seat and was certain his lips were bright red/purple.

Husband: Like A-man's, huh?

Me: Yeah. It took everything in me not to pull off to the side of the road to check and make sure he was still alive. I know it's totally irrational to assume that within 5 minutes my son would be dead and his lips turned that awful color on an 82-degree day, but I swore I saw it.

Husband: I have had a few of those moments, too, where I have to stop and look closely to make sure he's still alive.

PTSD plays tricks with your mind. It's awful. There just is no proper way to describe that horrendous color, is there?


This morning was B's third doctor's appt. since he left the NICU on February 26th. He's officially 4 weeks old and marks one month out of my belly tomorrow. I think I'm most shocked by not being pregnant than I am him being a month old. I've just spent so much of the last few years pregnant that I don't know what to do with myself!

Back to the appt. B's last appt. showed he was at 7lb 3oz. at 2 weeks old. He was expected to be back to his birth weight (7lb 6oz.) but was not. He wasn't the best eater for his first three days of life as he couldn't breathe and was struggling to master that. I'm proud to say, however, that in those 2 weeks+ since his last appointment, he hasn't had a single bottle or drop of formula. He has been exclusively breastfed and is now at a whopping 8lb even. It's always the fear of a breastfeeding mother that their child is not getting enough-- especially when they seem ready to eat just an hour or two after the last feeding. Knowing the doctor was still concerned about his weight gain, she had us schedule a 4-week weight checkup for today (yay, another co-pay!). He made sure to pee all over their table. Atta boy. I felt a bit defeated after that last appointment, as you can imagine. He had left the NICU based on our demands and had been eating like a champ, but was still not up to the recommended weight.

Maybe it's a misconception, but as a BLM, I feel a strong urgency to prove myself as a mother. I know that breastfeeding is best for B. We knew that pulling him from the NICU when we saw he had healed of his TTN was the right decision. We're taking every extra precaution to shield him from germs as we can in his infancy. I still can't help but feel like I'm being judged on the outside for being an unfit mother. I am not asking for reassurance, just stating a fact. When one of your children is dead, it lowers your confidence and ability to judge just how well your mother's intuition works. It didn't work the first time... so why now? Others must think the same. They must think that I don't have what it takes to be a fit mother. It's completely false, but it's also something I'm totally sensitive about. I'm no expert, but I might assume that's another area of PTSD that creeps in to invade what good is left or left uncovered in my life.

I spend hours upon hours just reveling in how beautiful and precious our son is. I'm thankful for every moment. I just know I'll miss these moments. With every grunt, cry, movement, breath... I'm still in absolute awe that this little baby came from my body and he is ours.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


I posted before I was even pregnant with B about getting a massage and how uncomfortable I felt about the whole process. I am one who loves that luxury. I don't require much to be happy-- expect maybe good food and a solid night's sleep. I'm not really high maintenance in that respect. But man do I love it when I have the opportunity to get a massage. I mentioned how after Andrew died, I didn't really feel comfortable or worthy of one. They're indulgences and I didn't feel like splurging when inside I felt so dark and cold. I couldn't possibly allow myself to relax in my own skin, let alone allow someone to soothe away the scars that seemed to have a hold over every part of my body.

I can't say those scars are healed, because they aren't. But I can say that I'm just more comfortable with them. I hate them. I hate being able to say I have a child who isn't alive and one who is. It's just not fair to them, my family, or myself. But it's the real deal. I'm just more comfortable saying that the scars are there because I love my son-- my son who is no longer alive.

With that said, I got a massage yesterday. My parents bought me a massage while I was pregnant with B and I refused to use it until he was born. I couldn't risk having a massage and potentially compromising (albeit a small risk) the life of my unborn child. I also didn't feel like I was ready to "celebrate" and in many ways, I view massages as a celebration of sorts. Or certainly a splurge for "special" occasions. His birth is definitely one of those. He was alive and in the arms of his dad when I drove away and indulged. It felt weird to be pampered. It was the first massage I've had since before Andrew was conceived. It was the first massage I've had since becoming a mother for the first time. A first, definitely.

Last night was all about food firsts. I've never made lettuce wraps before, but I decided it was due time! I made two different dishes to roll into wraps. I made P.F. Chang's chicken lettuce wraps and an Asian quinoa lettuce cup filling. I'm not a huge fan of soy-based products like tofu (though I'll eat them if made for me) based on texture, but I love quinoa and other grains/legumes/seeds. It turned out quite well. And since we wanted to represent many cultures while still celebrating a "green" St. Patrick's Day, we also enjoyed some margaritas. That was not a first alcoholic beverage since B's birth, however... as I had that IPA I mentioned in my last post.

 Recipe for the chicken lettuce wraps found here.
 And the quinoa here.

Today was full of more firsts. When my parents came to visit, my mom and I walked the downtown in our area and strolled through shops and ate cupcakes. It was nice. That was a first. But this morning was also a very special first. It's something I've dreamed about ever since I saw those two lines on that pregnancy test back in March of 2010. I dreamed of waking up on a weekend morning, and heading downtown for a stroller walk, bagels, and a stop into Baby Gap. It finally happened this morning. We strolled into Einstein's Bagels and enjoyed a few everything bagels with light cream cheese and found ourselves buying two cute onesies at Baby Gap before taking a stroll along the riverwalk and having strangers admire our little one. It felt sort of normal, but totally overdue. Like 15 months overdue. We heard comments from strangers about how cute he was and how although we aren't getting much sleep now, that it will improve over time.

We came home to another first. The bulbs we planted with the help of a friend to honor Andrew's birthday and celebrate B's upcoming birth are sprouting. We headed outside to uncover them.

While outside, we planted a card. You read that right. Ray's Aunt Ceil sent us some adorable clothes for B and a natural card embedded with wildflower seeds. It's meant to be planted whole. We found a pot about 10 feet away from the A & B bulbs where we are hoping those wildflowers begin to sprout.

Sprout little seeds, sprout.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A Jumble of Thoughts

Here we are. He'll be three weeks old in a matter of hours and I'm a stay-at-home-mom for the very first time in my life. It's weird. It's humbling. It's (sometimes) boring. It's wonderful.

I was speaking with a friend the other day about this phenomenon. She lost her firstborn as well and has now been staying home with her second child for the last couple months. She still has the itch. The itch for a life outside of the SAHM world. I do too. I still love and cherish my career as a teacher and I'm thankful that I'll be starting another graduate course next week. It will give me that sense of fulfillment that is different than being a mother. Though I have to say-- staring at his beautiful face makes me really thankful I had another chance. I try not to think about how this should've been my life all along-- how 15 months ago, I should've been a SAHM to my son. Now here with B, I want so desperately to have two boys in my home. What would it be like to be a mother of two living boys? It's a dream I allow myself to wonder about quite frequently in the middle of the night while I sit breastfeeding (exclusively!) my second son-- Andrew's little brother. The sound of Andrew and Benjamin makes my heart sing. It's cheesy to say, but it's really true. I love the sound of their names together and just wish they were both physically here.

My parents came to visit this weekend. They held in their arms a baby that was mine. And it was totally, incredibly special. I can't help but think that it was even more special because I know how much we've all experienced and lost to get to a point of livelihood. We had to endure a pregnancy and birth of a son/grandson so desperately wanted-- a first grandchild to both sides of our family-- a loss, a miscarriage, and then another pregnancy and birth all to reach this point. My parents are proud. There's no doubt they'd make amazing grandparents to our two boys. Oh how I wish I could present that as reality. I haven't cried as many tears since B has arrived, but I sit here right now typing in a pool of sobs. I hear the coos in the background of a sweet little boy and finally my home is not silent. The doors are open and the nursery is walked in. The items are getting used. Some will never be used and I'm okay with that. Andrew has a piece of our lives and hearts, physically and emotionally. His name is still on the wall in the nursery and his little train toy that bears his name is still on the bookshelf. I don't know when I will be able to bring myself to take it down. I have nothing to replace it with. B doesn't sleep in there anyway and in many ways, it still feels like they share the space. The memories, hopes, dreams, and love of Andrew still cloud the room itself-- at least to me. I feel the presence of them both.

First neighborhood walk
Meeting his grandparents!
I have so many emotions. Most of them revolve around love, but many around fear. I fear, still, that B will be taken from us. I know too much. I've noticed a little redness that lines his eyelids and I have a fear that he has some incurable sickness. I'm aware that it's just my BLM tendencies striking me down, but it's hard to bury them. They're all I've known and immersed myself in for the past 15 months. It's the reality I live in having a son who left this earth far sooner than any child ever should.

My mind is everywhere, but mostly just thankful. B is such an innocent being that has no clue his parents are so totally emotionally screwed up. He doesn't know how hard we have fought to start a family and how sad that makes us. I don't ever want to burden him with that reality, but it almost seems impossible to hide.

In less somber news, I went for a jog for the first time since June and it felt amazing. I also had a Goose Island IPA and felt unable to drive. My love for cooking has not ceased. My love for the husband and a couple little boys is certainly what I've been focusing most of my energy on though.

Hi, I'm naked baby.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Story of a Little Brother

I spent part of this week writing out B's birth story and NICU stay. It's seven pages, y'all. I wasn't sure exactly how to draft it via blog without making you read for hours. That's why it's taken me so long.

So here we go. Here's B's birth story.

The Beginning - Wednesday, February 22nd.

I spent the day at work. I was training my replacement and planned to complete my final day before B’s arrival (induction scheduled for 2/29/12) on Friday the 24th. Things didn’t quite go as planned. Like they ever do! Lunch at 12:15 consisted of a PBJ, string cheese, and celery sticks. I scooted out to my routine OB appt. after work at 3:15 and my husband came with me. He hadn’t been coming to all of them, but he came this time in case there was any chance we might be getting an earlier induction. I had my last NST on Monday the 20th and was set to have another NST on Thursday the 23rd

My OB appt. yielded some surprising results. My OB told me that she thought we needed to head right on over to labor and delivery (like right then) and start my induction. I was 36w6d. The reasons in her recommending were the following: our history of unexplained loss, excessive amniotic fluid discovered during a BPP at the Perinatologist’s office during my NSTs (like over the high level) which could cause the cord to come first if I my water were to break and a potential demise, being 3cm dilated, having Braxton Hicks contractions every 3 minutes, and the fact that B hadn’t been moving a ton and scoring 8/10 on his last two NST/BPPs. The concern was that he was scoring 10/10 for weeks and then started scoring 8/10. Considering all we’ve been through, the logical choice was to induce. Of course, we knew that also had risks. For one, he would be barely term and likely have some symptoms of a preterm baby—mainly lung immaturity. They don’t give steroid shots to babies past 34 weeks… so that wasn’t an option. We just had to hope for the best. I was also at risk of an emergency c-section (though not a terrible thing if successful) since my water breaking could mean the cord rushes out. But the likelihood of having a live baby was good… so we decided to induce a week before our scheduled induction date. We were meant to have a leap year baby, but he was coming much sooner. My OB wanted me to head straight to L&D, but I wanted a shower and to pack some things since we had nothing ready. We headed home (3.5 miles from the hospital) and packed things in a fury. I took a shower and we were off. We were home maybe 30 minutes tops. And who was she kidding? I wasn’t about to walk through the doors of that hospital and into Labor and Delivery without my husband. I could not do this alone.

We arrived at the hospital close to 5 p.m. I sent an email at 4:33 p.m. to some BLM friends to let them know. To say that we were terrified was an understatement. There were tears of fear and excitement in the car. Tears about going into labor and delivery where Andrew was born and where we said goodbye. Where we had our 24-week scare with B. Where we had our D&C after the miscarriage in June. We’ve never had good news there… but were hoping this experience would be different. I made sure that the awful doctor who delivered Andrew and dealt with our miscarriage was not the on-call doctor. She wasn’t. Phew. We were checked into the room closest to the OR just in case the cord were to come first after they broke my water. There wasn’t a single other patient in L&D that evening. I was grateful.

It starts.

Our first nurse was also our discharge nurse during our stay with Andrew. It was only fitting that she checked us back in for the birth of our second son. She attends the same church and has mutual friends. She also shared some intimate moments with us about her own grief journey this past year and let us know she was praying for us. She started me on pitocin around 5:30 and my contractions were growing stronger. B’s heartbeat was strong but at times would send us freaking out because he would move or the belt would shift. Ray and I would not take our eyes off the thing for the entire induction process. No joke. One of us had to be watching it the entire time, despite the nurses assuring us that there were two additional nurses monitoring his heartrate.

The delivering doctor came in (who also performed my D&C…lovely) and broke my water. What a weird feeling! With Andrew, I didn’t feel it because it happened as I was pushing. Because I had an abundant amount of fluid, they were literally fishing it out for minutes upon minutes. I asked how much water at one point and my doctor told me that a gallon wouldn’t be unreasonable. No cord came. Phew. Around 9 p.m. I was around 6cm dilated and still feeling pretty great. I didn’t need the epidural quite yet, but I knew that it would only be a matter of time and the nurse kept asking if I wanted it. What I really wanted was to pee… and I knew a catheter would be administered along with the epi. Around 9:20 p.m., the anesthesiologist came on in and made sure to stick me (twice) and finally managed to get that epidural moving.

I started pushing around 12:10 a.m. and had 9 full contractions of pushing before B was born at 12:42 a.m. on February 23, 2012. He was born at just barely 37 weeks. 19 inches long and 7lb. 6oz. Andrew was the exact same weight. <3 We heard him cry and it was quite possibly the best sound I’ve ever heard. Ray was over taking photos while the nurse was handling all of the cleaning, vitals, and measurements.

B had arrived. But all was not well. Again.

About 2 hours later after skin-to-skin time and we were all cleaned up, we were wheeled down to Mother-Baby for the first time. We had never been down this hall. After having Andrew, we stayed in L&D the entire time until we were discharged. The nurse was extremely sensitive to our needs and took us down a back hallway and away from our dreaded delivery room where we said goodbye to Andrew.

Transition to Mother-Baby. But not for long.

Once in Mother-Baby, things were going well… until they weren’t. Again. He had his first bath... Ray took photos and then headed down to the cafeteria to grab something to eat.

I surrender!

I pity the fool who tries to mess with my mama.
The nurse then wheeled B down to the nursery to take his vitals around 6 a.m. It seemed like a long time, so I sent Ray out to check on him. Right there in the nursery was the neonatologist and a team of nurses surrounding his bassinet. Something was wrong. It turns out B started choking in the nursery and they had to save him. Save his life. They took him down to the NICU for monitoring after because it’s protocol to keep a child for 6 hours after an “episode” occurs. He had his second choking episode in the NICU. He was officially admitted at that point. This is where they asked my permission to give him formula.

And this is where I lost it. 

I was a full-on mess of emotions. My first son died. My second son nearly died. And now they admitted him to the NICU and are giving him formula. Formula is obviously not the devil, but when you envisioned this perfect skin-to-skin and rooming-in time with your baby and they have now taken him away because he is sick and can no longer be in contact with his mom… it’s very emotional. I felt like that was the last straw in having no control.

Once admitted to the NICU, they performed an x-ray on his lungs. Leave it to me to be in the 1% again. Born at just 37 weeks (full term) B was diagnosed with Transient Tachypnea of the Newborn (TTN). Basically, it’s fluid in the lungs that wasn't able to be fully extracted as he exited the birth canal and because he was slightly pre-term. There are no long term effects and it is usually gone within 72 hours, especially with the assistance of forced oxygen via tube. Once diagnosed, they inserted the oxygen tube and hooked him up to 25% forced oxygen (we breathe 21%). They slowly weaned him off the oxygen as time progressed and his breathing began to improve over the course of the next two days.

Does this look comfortable to you? Didn't think so.
Vitals: Heartrate, breaths, oxygen level
Once in the NICU, B needed  to go 24-48 hours under observation without any drop in his blood oxygen level before they would release him after they removed the oxygen. Because B was considered preterm and was not breathing properly at birth, this caused him to struggle with feeding—because the body can only handle one fight at a time. He was given a feeding tube in the NICU that they were feeding formula into—Gerber Good Start Gentle. I had lots of tears over this. They asked my permission to feed him and despite wanting him to be an entirely breastfed baby, I knew he was also fighting for his life and should not be deprived of nutrients that could help his lungs and body heal faster. He only used the feeding tube a handful of times in the NICU, but it still hurt watching them put the tube down through his nose. Seeing your brand new baby fight for his life is simply terrifying. In the meantime, I was seeing a lactation consultant between B’s feedings (of which we were at every single one) to assist with pumping. She even visited the NICU during his feeding a few times to assist with latching (of which didn’t go so well… but I learned quite a few techniques to use with a young baby). He was also fed colostrum in addition to the formula. Our schedule the entire time he was in the NICU consisted of the following:
  • Go to B’s feedings—change his diaper, bathe him, hold him, and put him to breast… then feed via bottle or tube with breastmilk and formula.
  • After about an hour, leave to go pump back in our room at Mother-Baby.
  • Interruptions by various doctors, consultants and nurses.
  • Sleep for about 1.5 hours. Rinse. Repeat.
Andrew was never far away.

This of course was only until we were discharged from Mother-Baby. That story to come later. We really envisioned having our son room-in with us. I even wrote countless emails to my fellow babyloss friends during my pregnancy about how terrified I was that they would take him away from me after I delivered. I was induced, so it was partly my fault, but I could very well be typing another demise story had we not induced either. It’s tricky. In addition to not rooming-in with our son as we envisioned, we were forced to walk by the room I delivered Andrew every single time we went to visit B in the NICU. Room 120. On the corner, just down the hall from Mother-Baby. We walked by about 20 times a day, at least. A room I never wanted to go near again. Ever. 

Unfair connections.

On B’s second day in the NICU, we walked by Andrew’s room and then the room next door… and I saw something all too familiar. A falling leaf on the door of a room in Labor and Delivery. That same falling leaf was taped to our door after delivering Andrew stillborn. There was a couple behind those closed doors that lost their baby and I walked by visiting my (living) son in the NICU, knowing the grief journey they were embarking on, just as we did 15 months prior when Andrew died. I wanted so desperately to walk in and tell them I understood. That I have a son in heaven. That this journey is the most excruciating one they’ll ever endure and one that is so incredibly unfair. Instead, I just cried. Because I know that grief in such a raw form. I was thankful this time that I was walking to see my living child, but I knew that his lung issues and episodes could have very well ended in another demise. That I could have another falling leaf on my door.

Inside the NICU doors.

In the NICU, B was undoubtedly the biggest baby among the six others. The others were all super preemies and B was the only one close to term. Ironically, most of them were not on oxygen because they were given the steroid shot to develop their lungs before birth. One of my nurses in Mother-Baby told me that they had three cases of TTN babies in the NICU that week alone, so it’s not uncommon. However, the other babies in the NICU were there mostly for maturity issues. They needed to grow to term before being released. We watched another baby come and go in the NICU after also having an episode. She was stabilized, thankfully and was released. But to hear the panic alarm and the neonatologist and other NICU nurses rushing to get another baby was awful. Since I was not by his bedside when he had his episodes, it scared me to watch the process unfold as if it were my own child.

Friday, February 24th. The next day.

We had a social worker come by our Mother-Baby room to talk with me about PTSD. She said it sounded like I probably had some of it creeping in since we have a history of loss and now a traumatic experience of our second son being born with complications. She wanted to know I had support in place—that I would be okay. How someone with such strength and independence became someone who must struggle and lean on others for emotional support is hard to swallow. To know I’m listed as a person to watch is even worse.

Friday also marked the day of B’s echocardiogram on his heart. They were hearing a slight murmur which is common in newborns, but because he was having lung issues, they wanted to rule out any connection to heart problems as well. Because they only perform these ultrasounds on specific days, we went ahead with it. We held B’s arms and soothed him for the entire process of an hour. It was painful to watch our son being prodded like that, but thankful to hear that the only detection was the normal valve that shuts on its own once the baby is born. Check that off the list of potential problems. Phew. The rest of the day was a blur. 

Saturday, February 25th.

At 2:00 a.m., B was released from oxygen completely. He had been being weaned during the 24th and was finally oxygen-tube free by our 3 a.m. feeding on the 25th. It was such a joy to see him not only breathing on his own, but free of that darn oxygen tube. Of course he still had his feeding tube as the NICU nurses insisted he was not eating well—and in fact he was not. He needed to improve his eating and be off oxygen without any episodes for 24-48 hours before they were willing to release him to go home with us.

No more tube! Yay!
But I still have this stupid tube. Get it out. Please.
Discharge day. Fighting to stay.

In the meantime, I was being discharged from Mother-Baby… the place where I was meant to be recovering but seriously felt totally recovered hours after giving birth (no joke, I could’ve gone for a jog). We had nowhere to go and most certainly were not willing to leave our second son at the hospital by himself. I could not show up pregnant for the third time at that hospital and leave for the third time without my child. I just couldn’t. And go home to an empty home again? Not going to happen.

The OB from my practice came in to see me in Mother-Baby and said he would not perform B’s circ until he was out of the NICU. However, when we went in to see B at his next feeding, the circ had been performed (sans drugs—this doc doesn’t use them). Our concern was that now that B was off his oxygen, he had to perform well at feedings before they would release him. But what baby is interested in downing a bottle (especially a preterm one, no less) that just had a circumcision? In addition, he was receiving his Hep B shot that day as well and we felt doomed from the start. We wanted him eating and the NICU required a certain amount in 30 minutes and made it very clear that if he didn’t “pass”, they would not be discharging him.

He fed well without a tube, but after his circ was feeling a little exhausted. The NICU nurse was incredibly rude (though the majority were SO wonderful and there is no doubt to us that they saved his life) and came over yelling at us and telling us that we clearly were not reading his cues and that they would be taking the last 9ml and putting it through the feeding tube. The kid just had a circ and a Hep B shot! I’m not sure I’d be hungry either! We were so frustrated because as we know it, he’ll eat when he feels like it. At this point we felt like we needed to give him an exact amount and no more at feedings—just so we could be discharged. We felt like we had to withhold more food if he wanted it because then he might not feed as well for the next meal (big lunch, small dinner… was our concern). That last 9ml potentially cost us another day in the NICU because he had to wait a full 24 hours and only be bottle fed in order to be discharged. 

So now he's eating. And no longer has TTN. Time to go home?

As of Saturday, he was no longer on oxygen, was eating without a tube, and was stable for over 24 hours… yet he was not being released. We told the NICU that we did not intend on leaving the hospital and placed a complaint with the lead charge nurse of the hospital for the behavior of the NICU nurse who was treating us as though we were inept… despite us being at every single feeding he had and her only being there for a 12-hour shift. We had the patient advocate in our Mother-Baby room and the lead nurse assuring us that although we had to check out of Mother-Baby by midnight, that we would not be kicked out of the hospital. The NICU nurses (though not the grouchy one) pulled together and told us we could stay from 12 a.m.-7 a.m. in the NICU conference room. It had a loveseat, two chairs, a coffee table, and a floor. It was also 5 steps from the NICU doors. We immediately checked out of Mother-Baby and schlepped our stuff into the room. You know, the room where they tell parents their child is terminal. It was awful knowing this, but we simply had nowhere else to go and home just was not an option. We were not missing a feeding and we were not leaving our son behind. We slept restlessly in the room and then moved our things to the hospital lobby and stashed them behind a couch before B’s next feeding. 

Why not just stay in the Ronald McDonald House?

The hospital has a Ronald McDonald House that was set to open in January… but obviously it was still not open despite the statue of Ronald in the lobby, a big sign up, the ribbon cutting being reported (with pictures!) in the paper, and everything. Apparently some bureaucratic document had yet to be signed to officially open its doors. Super. Here we are staring at Ronald in the lobby of the hospital and napping on the lobby couches. 
There's Ronald... now where's the house?
Camping out.
Bye, Bye NICU - Sunday, February 26th.

Our new day nurse was once again, the grouchy nurse! We told the lead nurse that we would not have her around our son anymore, so she had her apprentice taking care of B instead. She was being so incredibly nice to us after we placed our complaint. We still aren’t sure if she knew we complained. Maybe she learned to respect us more for caring so much for B? For advocating for him and taking charge as parents? We were absolutely the most involved parents in the NICU. Either way, we asked the apprentice on Sunday when our son would be allowed to come home. We stated the case that he had been eating off the tube (except that 9 measly ml they insisted he needed of which he immediately vomited up—who isn’t following his cues now?!), had been off oxygen for more than 24 hours and was stable, had no heart condition per his Echo, and was within normal limits of jaundice. What more did he need to pass on their scale and why were we, his parents, being left in the dark? Where was this magical checklist he had to pass that we weren’t familiar with? When asked, the nurse told us that she didn’t think it was likely he would be coming home with us that day.

Cue the anger.

Ray started becoming very vocal at this point. Right in the middle of the NICU with all of the nurses and parents around, Ray started yelling about how they were keeping us out of the loop, how they were forcing B to food that he did not want through a tube, and that the NICU is a business and that they obviously need to fill beds. Yikes. It was definitely a moment of desperation. Surely we know that those nurses and neonatologists saved B’s life. We are thankful they were there and for all the Level III resources they had to care for our son. But at this point, we just wanted to know what else our child needed to do in order to be considered “normal” again. Not feeding well is a newborn issue—not a NICU issue. A potential for jaundice is a newborn issue as well—not a reason to keep a child in the NICU. Another nurse who we didn’t love either (there were 2—the rest were awesome) yelled right back and told him that if we took B home, he’d end up in pediatrics because he was acting like a 36-weeker. We asked to speak with the neonatologist on duty. He was no help. He walked over and stated his jaundice and feeding was keeping him from being discharged and offered no support in his words. He was tested for jaundice every day and was not given the bili blanket or lights because, as they said, they don't treat for something that is not a problem. Well, if it's not a problem, then why isn't he home with us? Most parents whose children develop jaundice can rent a blanket and be on their merry way.

That afternoon, a new neonatologist was there and ready to speak with us. He made sure to explain that as long as B was feeding well for a few feedings, he would release him. He also told us that he’d like to see a less strict feeding schedule (what a concept to eat when you’re hungry and not exactly every 3 hours!) and to allow B to eat as much as he wants, whenever he wants. We were thrilled with this news, as it appeared someone finally understood our concerns and wanted our child to experience a normal schedule. We came in for our 3 p.m. feeding and he fed like a champ. 

Final field trip before B came home to live with us. To Target, of course.

We left the NICU and headed to Target for some baby items, as we were determined he would be coming home with us that evening. It was my first time out of the hospital walls since Wednesday when we were admitted into Labor and Delivery. Once we arrived back, we walked through those doors talking about how we were about to go take the “final exam” to be given rights to take our kid home. It was a huge slap in the face to feel this as we’d been trying to bring a baby home and be somewhat normal for 2 years now. We felt as though others were considering us incompetent as parents, yet every other child with “eating issues” is able to leave Mother-Baby with their parents after having that perfect rooming-in experience without any more than a “congrats, you can do it!” attitude. We wanted to feel a pat on the back from the hospital staff and the encouragement we so desperately deserved. We decided I would be the one to take the “final exam” of feeding B in front of them for the last time. 

Final exam canceled. You're free to go.

We spent that entire day on Sunday just kissing major butt. I was asking nurses their best techniques for this and that, reading ALL of the paperwork I received about newborn care (despite feeling equipped on the majority of it) in the chairs as B slept. Ray was reading The Economist to show he was intelligent and hopefully the NICU nurses would see we weren’t a couple of incapable, young kids. When we walked into those doors at 6 p.m. for his “final exam” feeding, they basically told us we could take him. We aren’t sure whether we passed the test with our behavior or if they just wanted to get rid of us… or if B really did convince them that he was fine to go home. But regardless, we were being discharged and would finally be bringing home our baby. The grouchy nurse took over at this point and could not have been nicer. We don’t understand it, but we just didn’t care at this point. We wanted out. Within an hour, we were on our way home with B strapped in his carseat in the back seat of our car. Coming home. 

The grouchy nurse had parting words for me as Ray pulled up the car:

“Just remember. Your kid is not sick, so you can treat him as normal as possible. All of his cultures, blood tests, and ultrasounds have come back negative and other than eating and being jaundice, he is totally normal."

What a concept. I seriously don’t know when the switch was triggered, but she all of a sudden realized that he was fine and that he needed to be coming home. Confused. As we drove away, we felt like we were making a jailbreak. Like they were following us to monitor or take B away. It was such a terrible experience to feel, once again, like we weren’t capable of handling things with our child. In order to give us the “full experience”, they brought a wheelchair and wheeled me out (despite being totally fine to walk) to the lobby for our final farewell—like they do for all the mothers leaving Mother-Baby. They took us out the same way we left without Andrew—when I was wheeled out with a bag full of mementos and without a baby. It was surely a numbing experience, but thankfully we were occupied with the idea that we were finally leaving the NICU. 

Under one condition.

Of course not without strings attached. The grouchy nurse told me about 5 times that we HAD to take B to the doctor the very next day to have them check him out for jaundice. It was a complete waste of a co-pay as we knew he was within normal levels and not a lot was going to change within 12 hours, but we obliged just to have our kid home. Like we suspected, the doctor told us he was fine and just to make sure he was spending some time in the sun, eating well, and pooping well. Our 2-week appointment is scheduled for Thursday.

He's home, y'all. He's freaking home.