Saturday, November 29, 2008

6 mos.

Finn is six months old today. It's hard to believe that it's been half a year since that late May afternoon when we drove, white-faced and full of trepidation, to the hospital and to an uncertain future. At the same time, it's hard to imagine a time when Finn was not here in our lives. Just like it's hard to imagine a time when we slept in the same bed, and I slept for more than four hours in a row.

My expectations of Finn are that he Be Finn. I don't think of him as a preemie, nor do I think of him as a 6-monther. He's himself, and he will do what he does, when he does it. Every once in a while I have a twinge of worry for his development, but it's easily overcome by his responsive smiles. He is what he is, from day to day, week to week, and month to month. I talk to him, read to him, show him things, walk him around, and I watch him. I don't know what babies do; I don't know what they are supposed to do at certain ages, so I am not putting mental pressure on myself or on him to excel or catch up to anything. I want him to grow, eat, poop, pee, and be content. He changes gradually, from day to day, but it has to accumulate for us to notice a difference, and one day, I see that he really is trying to grab for objects, or I note that he is following Pete with his eyes as Pete walks around the house.

I looked at the infant development chart in our baby book for the first time in a couple of months, and just like it was the last time I consulted it, Finn is all over the place.

The chart I have lists "Master Skills," which I find amusing when applied to a baby.
He's over the First Month skills, so I will leave them out. For the Second Month, his Master Skill is to "visually connect to parents." Got it. Third Month: Hand Play. I am not quite sure what that means. He has just started to put his hands together and wring them like a nervous old lady, if that is what they are getting at, and he loves to jam them into his mouth. Fourth Month: Displays accurate visual tracking. Got it. Fifth Month: Reaches accurately. Uh, still working on that one, but he's getting better. Sixth Month: Sits. No way. I sit him up sometimes now to play, but there's no way he could sit on his own yet.

For "Gross Motor Skills, " I can skip Month One and Month Two.

Month Three: stretches limbs all the way out, cycles and makes freestyle movements; holds head higher than bottom, searches; briefly bears weight on legs; holds head steady when held; rolls from back to side.

Finn's head is very steady, and he has almost no troubles with control. He will roll onto his side sometimes as well. He has been good with both of these skills for quite a while. He also enjoys standing on our laps and bouncing, which he has also done for some time. The bouncing continues to get more vigorous, and he's getting stronger at standing.

Fourth Month: Stands supported, Sits propped on arms, lifts head 90 degrees, scans 180 degrees, rests on elbows, rolls from tummy to side.

Finn hates being on his tummy unless he is sleeping on someone's chest. He does lift his head, but he's not quite there with the rest of that list.

Fifth Month: sits propped on floor and with pillow in high chair; stands, holds on only for balance; rolls from tummy to back; rocks on tummy--airplanes; assumes push-up position; wiggles a few feet forward; cranes neck forward to see; possibly grabs toes.

Finn does not know that he has toes. I have been showing them to him, though, and he sees them. He'll figure it out.

Sixth Month: sits briefly by self; sits in high chair; stands briefly while leaning on furniture; rolls over both ways; digs in with toes and hands to move toward toy.


Hand skills:
For Month Three, he is supposed to make swiping reaches, which he does; hold and shake a rattle, which he does if I hand it to him. He only holds things for brief periods, having only recently figured out that he has hands. He is getting better at his aim, but it's still hit or miss.

Language and Social Skills:
He has figured out screeching and is starting to make different sounds and repeat them. I can't tell if he's laughing, but sometimes it seems like it. He's drooling, so there are definitely bubbles. His depth perception is on, and he tracks and gazes accurately. He turns his head toward sounds more often than not and watches our mouths.

Cognitive Skills:
He's getting the cause and effect and seems to expect reactions from us sometimes.

What Babies Like:
He loves to watch faces, hear repeated noises, stand and bounce, look around him, watch lights, look at pictures, be carried on the hip or in a carrier, have a dry diaper, hear music and see Pete playing the guitar, make noise. He's all over the map on development, but he fits in best in the three to four month area.

What we have here is a baby who's figuring it out as he goes along.

Same as his parents.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Long Awake Continues

Pete "let me" go to Greta's birthday party on Saturday night. I was wary of another social situation as Halloween was such a stone cold blast for me, but I decided that it sounded like a pretty casual affair, just a "Jeans and Cute Top" party with a potluck, so I might be safe.

It turned out to be quite fun. I knew everyone there, and my best friends already have kids, a few of whom were also there, and they did not mind some baby talk. I tried to make it funny, so I could at least be entertaining.

I did not get home until 12:30, and Pete and Finn had just gone to bed. Pete was still reading, and I climbed in and debriefed him on the evening. He invited me to stay, but I figured I had better get my two hours of sleep, so I went to our room. And yup, it was two hours of sleep.

It's Tuesday morning now, and Tyrannosaurus Baby thrashed, ate, and grunted from 4:00 a.m. until we finally got up at 8:30, and I am again wondering "Why do I do it?" Why do I try to go out and do things that involve me staying up late? I don't ever make up those hours, I just go deeper into debt. When I come home, the routine stays the same. Pete keeps him until somewhere between 2 and 4, and then I get him, from which time on, he does not sleep soundly. I can do with around four to five hours of sleep a night, but that one night of two hours has just killed this week so far.

I think that babies' development is timed so that you don't just decide to give up and donate them to charity or sell them to the circus. Just when you think you can't take it anymore: you're too tired; you're sick of the barfing;don't think you can stand to carry them around anymore; they start to smile, and you melt into a pile of goo.

He's going to have to come up with something really good this time...

Oh look! He's reaching for his toys!


And here's a video from last night's sing along, to lighten the mood:

Monday, November 24, 2008


For the second time in a week, I had a dream that Pete either:

a) did not want to marry me ("Never did," he said), and I was going to have to go and marry my ex-husband again; or,
b) wanted to date other people.

In neither of these dreams were we married or did we have Finn.

It goes to show you that at this point, my brain is pretty sure that the only reason Pete is still around is because I incubated him this awesome baby. It's not a new story. Once you have a baby, that's the focus of the relationship. You really don't have much of a relationship with each other. You are triangulated toward the white hot ball of need wearing the Onesie. You are hardly ever alone with each other, and you rarely talk about things that are not related to the baby. I think this is especially true if one of you is home with the baby all the time. That person has very little new information to impart; it's not like you are running important experiments in the lab or out in the world having new experiences. Especially now that it's RSV season--I am not taking him out to places anymore. So all I have to tell Pete is how many times Finn barfed on me or what interesting tidbit I learned from watching the extras in the extended version of Two Towers.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Family Fetishwear

If we show up somewhere encased in rubber, it's not because we have embarked upon some new adventure in fetish fashion, it's because rubber is easily hosed off. Mr. Barfy von Droolpuker is in rare form lately. In one six hour period, I went through two bathrobes, two fleeces, and one tee shirt. This morning, my hair was encrusted in curds.

Baby cheese.

I admit to being weary of the barfing.

Finn, however, seems fine.

It's easy to wonder if they are actually digesting anything because they seem like cheerleaders before prom. Everything is binge-purge/binge-purge/gotta fit into the dress/I can't BELIEVE I am in 6 month sleepers/Do I look fat to you? (The answer is yes.) But in reality, the volume of liquid is not as much as we think it is. Even though it appears that nothing is staying in his stomach based on the gurgly fountains issuing from his slimy gob.

Pete went in to change the little monster many minutes ago. First, he peed all over the place. Then, just as the new onesie was on, I hear "Someone does not want to be wearing clothes today." He's either peed or puked on a succession of garments. Now that he is in dry clothes, it's almost a certainty that his diaper is wet.

And as he is very likely low on barfy resouces, I am sure he's also hungry.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Fine Knit Goods

I started knitting for the future baby early in my pregnancy, but nothing I was working on was as small as the baby we got. Still, it had not occurred to me to start knitting for His Tiny-ness until I saw him in this travesty:

Granted, those hats are knitted and crocheted as a charity to the hospital for babies like Finn, and one should not look a gift horse in the mouth or a gift stitch in the row, but as One Who Knits, I simply could not let this continue. I whipped up a couple of hats (modeled here by Miss Hazel):

And later by himself:

One nice thing about knitting for babies is that the stuff is small, so it's fast. Preemies are even smaller, so it's lightning fast. You almost don't have time to notice you are knitting before the hat is done.

He has received many fine knit (and crocheted) goods over the past few months, and I have contributed a few more as well:
There are hats by me, a hat, blanket, and bear by Christine, blankets by me, bunny by me, and a crochet blanket by my mom. That's the blanket for which I had a baby in the first place. And now it's mine, all mine.

I mean, Finn's. Of course.

He had better not be thinking he is barfing on that masterpiece.

Auntie Dorkchic added to the pile with these cutest of cute things:

And to top it all off, many of the members of a discussion board on which I post random comments contributed to blankies solicited by a woman who lives in the Twin Cities. They sent her squares from all over the country and across the pond, and she seamed them up into these wonderful patchwork blankets. They also sent wash cloths and socks. I was, and still am, in awe of all the work and beauty. Humans can be really cool.

This is one lucky boy. We intend to instill in him a deep sense of gratitude for how fortunate he is, which will lead to a heavy weight of crippling guilt, further leading to years of therapy and a complex about how he can never live up to all the expectations heaped upon him due to his early birth and our idea of his perfection.

Just kidding.

But he is really lucky.
And so are his parents.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Curious George

Curious George is a convoluted tale of kidnapping, adventure, social injustice, and the mayhem that ensues when two evolutionary cultures collide. To say that the original tale of Curious George is far-fetched is to bring an American Classic into scrutiny under which its assertions will not hold up. Indeed, one must not only suspend disbelief to swallow the occurrences, but one's knowledge of the natural world must be subsumed in fanciful claims of simian comprehension and behavior.

In the case of Curious George, the monkey, we learn that his downfall is his curiosity. It's a classic case of blaming the victim. Because he is curious about a new object in his surroundings, it is his fault that he is kidnapped. What kind of message does this send to our children? The messages of "don't look into new things" and "if you do look into new things, bad things will befall you" are not helpful.

We open with a classic human depiction of the happy monkey. Swinging on a vine, in a tree, smiling, and eating a peeled banana, with flowers and butterflies. However, as George has no tail, I believe he would be classified as an ape, so we are sending an incorrect scientific information to our children as well.

The Man With the Yellow Hat is an interesting character in American literature. As the story seems to think that it is told from the monkey's perspective, the main human character in the story has no name, only a descriptor (How George himself has a name is never explained), and his interest in the monkey is simple: "What a nice little monkey... I would like to take him home with me." Aside from the fact that this betrays TMWTYH's nine-year-old stimulus-response/want-get attitude, who the crap does he think he is? Not to put too fine a point on it. This book gives the reader the idea that, not only can a person of apparently no credentials basically steal a wild monkey, that person apparently only requires a big yellow hat and a drawstring bag to accomplish said feat, provided, of course, that the dumbass monkey in question is curious and possibly has a fetish for headwear.

And then, once you have the monkey in a bag, it would appear that the government of "Africa," which appears to be a homogeneous blob of which our former vice presidential candidate would be proud, requires no paperwork or legal maneuvering to remove said monkey from its jurisdiction.

As is often the case in stories told from either an animal's perspective or a child's, the grown-ups in this story are almost preternaturally stupid or ineffective. TMWTYH explains George's situation to him, revealing the fact that he is clearly a bounty hunter for a zoo, and admonishes the monkey to "run along and play, and don't get into trouble." Preternaturally stupid.

This is clearly his first Monkey Job, for those statements, when voiced to monkeys, or children, are incongruous and incomprehensible. The fact that he 1) says this to a monkey, 2) expects his wishes to be carried out to said monkey, and 3) is saying this to a monkey he stole because he thought it was "nice," gives us a clue to TMWTYH's nationality. He's clearly an American.

Once in America, George is saturated, briefly, in the privilege of the White Male: a meal with spirits, an after dinner pipe, pajamas, and a warm bed. Methinks TMWTYH has done this before, just perhaps not with monkeys. He has quite the set up.

Leaving the monkey unsupervised on the ship led to a Monkey Overboard situation, and leaving him unsupervised at home leads to a Monkey Imprisoned situation. In this author's America, a monkey is thrown in jail for accidentally calling the fire department (He was curious. Curiosity lands you in prison). Interestingly enough, it is the Fire Department's embarrassment, more than any illegal action on the part of George (though it is unclear to me how often human legal codes are applied to nonhuman animals), that causes his incarceration, revealed by their comment, "You fooled the Fire Department. We will have to shut you up where you can't do any more harm." Which means: "We will have to shut you up so you cannot make us look like idiots again." How like a quasi-governmental agency. Benjamin Franklin would be proud.

George escapes from prison, and in a series of misadventures that includes the scientifically spurious act of being lofted away by a bunch of balloons, he winds up back in the hands of TMWTYH, who was apparently unaware of George's absence until that point.

We are supposed to believe that it is a happy ending when George is placed in the zoo, but I sense that the tale of Curious George is not over...

"Curious George" by H.A. Rey
Scholastic Book Services, 1941

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Great Yarn Embargo of 2008-09 (work)

I can't buy yarn until the summer of 2009.

Well, after I get two more skeins of Cascade 220 for a needle holder I am working on and three make-up skeins for a sweater in my pattern queue, I can't buy yarn until summer of 2009. So I spent the late summer and early fall of 2008 building up my stash, like a squirrel storing nuts.

What's up with the self denial?

Today was supposed to be my first day back from maternity leave. I took three months off under FMLA, and it's over. Finn came home on August 11. It's now November. My how time flies. Fortunately, I have been at my present employer for many years, so I have loads of sick time, which I was able to use when my two weeks of paid time ran out.

Thing is, one of the biggest things no one ever told me in the hospital was that our lives would never be the same again. Sure, sure, it's never the same when you have a baby, but when you have a preemie, everything is different. Remember that goal of not attaching yourself to a future that, in the end, you cannot control? This was a big attachment.

No one told us, during the two and a half months that Finn was in the hospital, that he could not go to daycare for his first winter; that he really should not go to daycare for his first year. The neonatalogists never said anything. The nurses never said anything. The social worker never said anything. Of course, "Sally the Socialworker" (seriously) was not really a useful resource for me, being more of a "How are you feeling?" type of person rather than a helpful, real-life, this-is-what-is-going-to-happen-so-you-had-better-be-prepared type of person. I know that the hospital experience is overwhelming, but it's my opinion that, once your baby is deemed stable and his or her chances of survival are pretty good, someone should sit you down and say "Your life, your plans, everything you thought was going to happen for the next year: you need to forget them."

I did not find this out until I spoke to another mom of a preemie. I confirmed it later with Finn's pediatrician, who said that she "strongly preferred" that Finn not be placed in a day care setting if at all possible. All those colds and infections that kids come down with could put a preemie back into the hospital or worse.

So here we are, facing a one income six months. Luckily for me, we can probably do it. We managed to save some money over the past few months, but I hope that we don't have to break into it. Even luckier for me, my work is very accommodating and understanding, and they are giving me a leave of absence, so I can come back in early June. Though I am going to try to work out coming back on a part time basis for the budget planning that usually starts in February. It's possible, then, that we will have some small income from me, and I am still uncertain as to whether or not any more of my sick or vacation time can be applied to at least part of the next few months. I certainly need to keep my benefits, and Finn's, and if I need to pay the entire cost of them, it may indeed be more difficult for us.

I don't know what others do, when they are not so lucky.

This means we have longer to figure out where Finn will go once I go back to work, and it means no more new yarn. Of course, there will be other sacrifices--ones that are not as silly and frivolous as yarn--but it's just an obvious luxury that I can cut out. That means no new patterns. If I don't already have the yarn, then too bad. It's straight back into the queue and behave yourself like the pretty little thing you are, and don't come out until you have something appropriate to wear.

In a way, this is a blessing. We are fortunate in that we can afford to do this with some hopefully minor changes, and I get to spend Finn's first year with him. It was a choice I never would have made because I would not have felt that it was possible, but it's something I am going to appreciate. Thinking about going back to work on this day makes my throat constrict. I don't think I could handle it, emotionally, and it makes me all the more grateful for our lives. I know women who only had six weeks or eight before they returned to work, and I know that many women can't even afford that. Hopefully, over the next six months, we can find a happy situation for Finn, and I can keep my toe in the work water so that June is not such a shock when I find myself back in meetings and inside a cubicle.

Without a baby hanging off my... arm.

Friday, November 7, 2008

What we wish you knew...

While Finn was still in the hospital, I found this discussion. It's a collection of observations from parents of preemies. I have pulled out some highlights, with my comments in italics. This has been written and revised a few times, so it often refers to the time when Finn was still in the hospital, and the tenses are all messed up. It pains me, as a writer, but time is short for two-handed typing.

•Please don't judge me or my choices (this includes my birth choices and choices made in the NICU). This was not my dreamed for pregnancy, and nothing is going the way I want it to.

Seriously, people. Nothing good can come of being judgmental at such a time. Indeed, one would not think that people would judge, but it happens. Humans can't resist the chance to spew their opinions and prove that they are right. Sometimes the judgment comes in the form of a "helpful suggestion." I have found that advice and suggestions are only helpful when I ask for them or when they come from nurses or doctors at the NICU. "Helpful suggestions" are usually passive aggression cloaked in a shiny patina of good will. It's like getting a hot casserole of tuna noodle disapproval. To which I reply "No thank you. Would you like a steaming mug of shut the f*ck up?"

• Unless you are a doctor, please don't give me medical advice, unless I ask for it. (Even if you are a doctor, but not mine...) I got really tired of having to explain over and over again to people that were not medical providers why we were doing what we were. If I ask, give me your opinion.

See above. People just can't help themselves with this one. I bet I have done it to someone else. With the interwebs and the Power of the Google, everyone can look up information on preemies and tell us all about it, if they want to. The thing is, we know best at this point. We are in contact with the nurses and doctors who are caring for our son. We are in contact with our son himself, and we will either know what is best, or we will find out directly. Or, we will talk to other parents of preemies. Thanks for the help, but we are quite capable and knowledgeable.

• Please don't tell me how hard the last few months of pregnancy are or complain how horrible it was to be overdue around me.

Sweet merciful christmas, this is ridiculous, and it covers a few areas of stupid. First of all, you are whining about something I wish that I had. Why don't you tell me all about how hard it is to keep your Prius clean or what a pain it is to be constantly running our of deposit slips.

It would have been far better for both baby and I to be overdue than to endure two and a half months of hospital care. Second of all, you are not making me feel any better by telling me how much it sucked to have the thing I did not have, even if you are trying to make me feel better. The pain of full-term labor, the lower back pain of a third trimester, the exhaustion, the discomfort... really. I wish I had known those things. It's not that I look back in regret or think about this daily; I am thankful for what we have, but people don't need to remind me of what I missed.

• Don’t tell me about how lucky I am to not have to go through the last month or two of pregnancy.

Someone just said this to me in the yarn store. I understand that they are trying to be light and breezy, but I'd rather be pregnant. Don't get me wrong, we are in love with our baby, and we are happy to have him, but it would have been better for everyone had I gone through the last three months pregnancy. I had it happen again at the drug store when a college-age woman saw me, with Finn in the sling, and squealed "OH CUUUUUTE," drawing a one syllable word into polysyllable land. "How old?" "He's almost four months," I said, but he was born at 25 weeks, so he's a little small." "Oh my god, so lucky! You didn't have to go through all that pain." Yeah. I would much rather inflict that pain on a small infant than go through it myself. After all, at least he can't complain about it. Grown ups are such whiners.

• Don’t tell me how it’s ‘no big deal’ and everything will be fine because people have preemies all the time and they are just fine.

heh. Lots of preemies are just fine, and it's amazing what they can do nowadays. We are thankful for all the knowledge and technology. I know that people just don't know what to say in such a situation sometimes, and they are trying to be reassuring. I have not heard that it's "no big deal" from anyone, which is good. It was the littlest, biggest deal there has ever been in my life.
• Don't tell me how lucky I was to have my babies at the hospital so I could recover and catch up on sleep. There is nothing more in this world I wanted then to have my babies with me at all times. There is absolutely nothing 'lucky' about having babies in the hospital.

This is just a shade away from the whole "get your rest now" comment that I love so much. Again, I think it's just misguided positivity. People trying to "look on the bright side" of a difficult situation. I would think that the person who says something like that might go home and think "My god, I can't believe I said that." I know I would.

(Bitchy me would like to answer that comment with "Yes. We are lucky to have him in such a lovely, five star resort type situation. Nothing better than paying $6500 a night for room and board. Also, I think it's super fun to hook my boobs up to an electric sucking contraption six to eight times a day instead of a whimpering baby.")

• Don’t judge me if I have to go back to work while my baby is in the hospital. I may have used all my leave on bed rest, and have to go back to maintain the health insurance.

In my case, I have not used up my leave, but I feel that I need to be at work. I am taking my leave in fall, and we need two incomes. I would rather not be working, it's true, and I feel my obligations pulling me in two directions. Obligation to family and obligation to work. I worry that both are suffering, and I am trying to balance it out. No one has made me feel bad about having to work, but some people have made me feel bad about not holding my baby enough. Passive aggressive behavior rocks. I have received some surprise that I am back working, probably because of the emotional ramifications, but they expressed themselves with concern rather than judgment.
• Call and ask if I want visitors. I wanted people to come see my baby, but I needed to know so I could be there. Most NICU's have a limited visitor policy, so I need to be able to do some planning.

This is true. Not many people have met Finn. It's not that we don't want visitors, we just have to coordinate. So far, three friends and three family members have met him. That's it. It's hard for me to make plans, it's hard for me to be spontaneous, it's hard for me to make decisions. The only thing I can really count on is when I go to the hospital. Everything else is filler.

• Please do not expect to hold the baby, as my time holding my baby is very limited and honestly, I can't spare that time with others.

amen. Also, while Finn was in the hospital, we preferred to be the only ones who held him, not only for infection risk reduction, but because we wished to be bonding with our baby.

• Please don't continually ask me when my baby will be coming home. I have no idea.

This does not bother me. I understand that people are curious. And we really don't know. I would probably ask the same thing.

• Please don't compare my baby to other preemies you have known. Maybe I'm the only one but even the positive stories bugged me because I wasn't sure my son was going to be one of them.

The Other Preemie Stories don't bother me. It's good to know that we are not alone. I had no idea how common this is.

• Please tell me how cute my babies are and try not to go overboard on the "look how tiny!" stuff.

Again, does not really bother me. He's tiny. It's interesting.
(Of course, NOW he's enormous.)

• Please take your cues from me and the other people in the NICU and don't freak out at every alarm.

They are unnerving, but you get used to them. I have not had anyone freak out, but he does not have many visitors aside from us. Once you get used to them yourself, you can explain them to others, and it's not so bad. (Of course, when I hear them now, like on a videotape, it takes me right back there.)

• Research is great. Educating yourself is awesome. Please do not act like you are an expert on the subject because you read something on the internet or know a friend of a friend. Each baby is unique and different, and as such my baby may not fit into what you have read. Please do not attempt to teach me about my baby.

Thank you! I don't really need suggestions from lay people. I'll ask questions when I need answers. Usually, I will ask a nurse, doctor, or pharmacist if it's a medical question. If it's a mothering question, I'll probably ask my mom. I mean, most people don't like unsolicited advice in normal situations, especially parenting ones, think about how welcome it is in this situation. Usually, this is someone who just has an opinion about what you are doing wrong, and then has looked for supporting information so that they can tell you they are right. It's not usually about us or the baby, it's about themselves.

• Don’t expect me to answer your call or return it within the first 4 weeks of my preemie's arrival.

Four weeks? Wow. This person was being really good. It's been almost two months, and the last thing I want to deal with is the phone. And we are even pretty much into a routine! I have not seen most of my friends, I have not done many social things, our couples time together is mostly doing errands or being at the hospital. (He's been home for three months now, and I am still finding it difficult to return phone calls and emails, and it's even harder to get out to see people.)

• Don’t expect me for dinner today, Sunday, any upcoming holiday maybe for the next year. Now, because I will spend it with either my family at home or in the NICU. Later because your child may give my baby RSV, and it could hospitalize her or kill her.

This is something I am coming to realize... more about it later...

• Don’t use animal words or toys to describe them.
• Don’t ask about doll clothes.

I don't think that this would bother me either. He's really small. He was really, REALLY small. Not talking about it or noticing it does not make him bigger. I compare him to food, like meat or grain measurements.

• Never compare my baby to a runt.

Someone actually said something like that?! It's hard to believe.

• When you come into the NICU to visit my baby, focus only on my baby...don't peer at anyone else's baby. Privacy is nonexistent in the NICU, so we parents and visitors have to respect others' right to privacy and keep our eyes and ears on our own babies only.

This was hard to do. You are surrounded by up to five babies, and you feel some amount of concern and curiosity about all of them. When one is not there anymore, you usually notice, and you can only hope that the baby was transferred for good reasons. We are not sure, but we think that at least one baby may have died in Finn's last room at the NICU.

• Also if I am crying it isn't Post Partum Depression, it's because all my hopes and dreams for a healthy pregnancy, vaginal delivery and healthy baby have blown up. I don't need medication, I need support!

So far, I have cried five times, I think. I could probably name them all. That sounds like fun! I cried when I saw him in his isolette for the first time. I cried when I arrived home from the hospital without him. I cried the first time I visited him without Pete and his belly was swollen and someone asked me how I was. I cried the morning after he had his 11 spell night. I cried one night at home because I missed him. I think that's it. Oh wait; I cried in Snuffy's Malt Shop. I don't remember why.

Six times. It's lonely, leaving your baby in the hospital. It's not that I am "trying to be strong" or anything. I am not sure what it is. Maybe I just don't have time for it.

• Please don't preach to me. If you have not been here as the mother of a sick baby, you don't know anything about this.

No one likes preaching.
Least of all someone who does not go to church.

• Please don't "should" on me. I'm doing my best. Please don't tell me how I "should" feel, react, behave. Please don't tell me I "should" live at the NICU, or judge me for staying at the hospital all the time.

No one likes "should-ing." Pretty much never say "You should have..." to someone.
It's not helpful, and you can't go back and change it. Again, it's some trying to make themselves better by pointing out that they were right.

• Please understand that while my baby is in the hospital that is where my focus is. Please don't expect me to come to social activities.

It felt like a betrayal to be out having fun while Finn was in the hospital. Rationally, we knew that it was not a bad thing to do; that we did, in fact, need some fun time, but it usually felt strange and not all together... fun. Now, it's really hard to be away from him. The longest I have gone is six hours. At that point, I start to get jumpy. Not to mention that by morning, my boobs feel like basketballs and I can pump a full bottle in five minutes.

• Please don't give me parenting advice. I'm not really parenting my baby anyway; I'm doing what the hospital allows.

Parenting advice to preemie parents. Now that's rich.

• It is not easier to be a new parent to a preemie because I'm "resting and letting someone else take care of her." I want to be taking care of her. Waking up every three hours to pump is not restful, and it is much, much harder than waking up next to your sweet newborn baby.

Makes. Me. Crazy. People kept telling me to get my rest while I could. Because having a baby in the hospital was so relaxing. We were working and going to the hospital at least twice a day, and I had to pump. We still had to eat and take care of the cats and the house. Pete had gigs.
There was no rest. I think that the two and a half months of hospital frenzy made this part, the time at home, both easier and harder. I was not rested when he came home, and I have not caught up. At the same time, we just get to be home now.

• Don't ask me what I need. I don't know what I need. Give me some suggestions if you want to help. Like "Can I take your laundry home and bring it back?" "Can I come load your dishwasher and wash the pans?" Can I clean out your car?"

During the hospital time, I have found that my ability to make decisions is gone when it comes to what I want or about making plans. It's easier to choose between options. When given a decision, I think about all the ramifications of each option and weigh them. I can't just say "Yes" or "No." I have to explain myself. When it comes to food, unless I have a craving, which is rare, I have no idea. These things are probably not new, just amplified by this experience and the general scattered state of my brain.

• Please congratulate me on my new baby. Please do not act like my baby is dead. Please do not send "thinking of you" or condolence cards. Please send me a congratulations on your new baby card.

See, now I thought the congratulations were weird. People don't normally receive congratulations for something that was done incorrectly. It was not an achievement, having a preemie.

It is, however, an achievement to get through the hospital experience with a healthy, happy baby and still be able to get along with your spouse or partner. I feel pretty good about that part.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Baby Shots

* 5/18/2010: Please note that this post was written during my Great Vaccination Fugue, from which I have recovered. Finn will be getting the CDC recommended vaccination schedule from now on.

Shots suck. They just do.

Actually, baby shots suck. I don't mind so much; I just turn away when they jam the needle into my arm. It's flu season, and I am diligent about getting my annual shot, and Pete and I both had our DTaP boosters before we brought The Boy home. This year, especially, Pete and I have to protect ourselves to protect Finn, who should not be exposed to any upper respiratory infections considering his extreme prematurity. After agonizing over vaccinations while Finn was still in the hospital, we settled on Dr. Sears' Selective Vaccination Schedule, or a modified version thereof. Finn has had DTaP, which protects against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (whooping cough). The only disease he really needed protection from in that cocktail was the pertussis, but you can't get it in a stand-alone shot. The diphtheria risk is almost zero and so is his tetanus risk, but there was no way around it. Since that shot, he has had the PC vaccine for pneumococcal disease and the HIB for haemophilus influenzae. We did not do the rotavirus vaccine. Finn is a stay-at-home baby who will not be in day care for his first year, so he is at low risk for many diseases. Due to his XPreemie status, he was eligible for the Synagis shot for protection against Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV). It's very common and similar to the cold, but premature babies are at a higher risk for RSV and the ramifications of the virus are worse for them.

The greater vaccination debate will rage on, and we are walking a line down the middle at the moment. I still have concerns about the amounts of aluminum in some of the shots and the long term implications, but mostly, I want to give Finn one shot at a time so that I can monitor him for any immediate adverse reactions. So far, he has done brilliantly with no side effects that we can notice. At his next pediatrician appointment, he'll start the boosters. DTaP on deck! We will go ahead with the other vaccinations such as polio and MMR, but not until a little later.

The shots are awful. For us, especially. He's there in his diaper, smiling and looking at me, and then the nurse jams this giant needle into his thigh. Finn goes silent, turns bright red, his face scrunches up, he cries but no sound comes out right away. Once the bandage is on, I scoop up my now screaming baby and put him right onto the boob. This usually calms him down, and he whimpers a bit and gradually turns back to his normal color. From now until May, he has to get one shot a month--the Synagis once a month and sometimes a booster.

We are getting our flu shots next week, which is just fine. I understand what is going on, and it really does not hurt. I am a big huge person, not a small baby. I know it's probably worse for us than it is for him; he forgets pretty quickly. We get to hold onto that lovely image of our trusting happy baby turning into a red-faced scream machine and feel the residual guilt from putting him through that experience. He gets a flash of pain, a few seconds of screaming, a boob, and a nap.

He's a big boy, though. He had two appointments this week. One at the pediatrician and one for the Synagis shot. He was 11 pounds, 6 ounces at the first and 11 pounds, 9 ounces two days later. I guess I should stop worrying about my production. He's an eater. We were looking at video of him from his first few days, hearing the monitor alarms going off in the background, and... wow. It's been quite an interesting five months. It's hard to believe how small he was and how big he is now. We're pretty pleased, I can tell you.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Morning After

It's been awhile since I woke up with an alcohol-induced headache (read: hangover). It's been awhile since I had whiskey. It's been awhile since I had more than three beers. In a row. Let me just say that:

I don't think it's worth it anymore.

At least not right now.

We had a great time watching the returns come in, celebrating and, at least for me, thinking about the awesome responsibility we have ahead of us. We went though many Guinnii and a couple shots of Powers each (Our friend Christine came over after spending the day being an election judge and trying to figure out how to fix our broken voting system). We stayed up too late. Finn was out of sorts from over stimulation and what little schedule he has being disrupted, and I did not like that I couldn't give him boob because of the beer.

Now, when it comes to alcohol and breast milk, you can find many different sources saying many contradictory things. One source will tell you "no breast feeding for at least two hours after consuming an alcoholic beverage," another will say it's OK when metabolized with food, and yet another will say that it does not matter at all in moderation. (Here's a good summary. And another.) Generally, I'll have a Guinness in the evening when Pete gives Finn his obligatory vitamin bottle, and I try to pump when the baby is eating just to keep my milk flowing. I already produce less milk in the evening, so I want to make sure that it does not continue to dwindle. I have also started freezing what I pump to have a store for the future. We have been busting into the freezer stock as it will start to expire next week.

It wound up consuming over half the chest freezer. This picture is from June 14.

Maybe I'll celebrate again next year at election time when we vote for city council or school board. Until then, I think my solitary Guinness is just fine.

Thank goodness politically life changing events don't come around all that often in America...

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day

I try to keep politics out of this space, but it's election day, and political discourse is a big part of my life. I voted this morning. We decided that we had to leave the baby at home because we were concerned about crowds and lines. In the future, he will always come along because I want to instill in him a respect for American democracy and give him a sense of the responsibility involved in being a citizen.

Beyond that, I will just say this...

Monday, November 3, 2008

old movie

I tried to watch "On the Waterfront," but it did not work.
Young Marlon Brando creeps me out. It's the whole area around his eyes. It's like the fat man is trying to escape.

Saturday, November 1, 2008


I became That Person last night.

Pete wanted to go to the local pub to hear his friend play music; I wanted to go to my best friend's Halloween party. Truth be told, I wanted to do both. Pre-baby, we would have done both. We decided to split the difference. Pete went to the pub from 9-11, and I went to the party from 11:30-1:30.

I don't know if it was worth it.

First of all, the costume of "New Mom Who Does Not Have Time to Put Together a Costume" was not that big of a hit. I felt like a loser at a party where my friends looked like this:I love Halloween. Used to be, back in the day, the four of us would get together something fabulous, like this:Things change. I did not know most of the people who were there, some of the people who do know me did not recognize me because of the short hair, and when I tried to talk to people, all I could seem to come up with was a vomit of baby talk that no one really wants to hear, unless they currently have a baby.

What do people talk about, anyway? They gossip; they discuss work; they talk about new things in their lives. I have no gossip; I am not working; there's nothing new to talk about. Or, people talk about what they love. In no particular order (except for the first one), I love my husband, my family, my girlfriends, my cats, writing, knitting, gardening, politics, Fluevogs, drawing, the mountains, laughing just because someone else is, and holidays. And now, my son. The list could go on and on, but suffice to say there are many things I love. I am an interesting, purposeful, and oft-times amusing person. Or I was.

I felt like a dork in my street clothes, looking all normal, so I would start to explain why I was not dressed up, and then I would hear myself "Oh, I have a new baby, so I don't have time to blah blah blah blah blaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah," and my words would trail off as I realized "No one cares about this. Stop talking. Stop talking. Remember when you were fun?!" And then I all inside my head, thinking how stupid I sound, and I can't think of anything to say.

At one point, I was sitting alone in the livingroom because everyone else was outside on the porch where the kegs were, and almost everyone was smoking. I can't be around the smoke because 1) I hate it, and 2) I can't bring second hand smoke home to the baby.

So there I was, alone on the couch, in my normal clothes on Halloween, thinking I should just go home. Being out is a combination of feelings. I want to get away, but not long into it, I miss the baby, and I want to come home. I don't have much to talk about aside from the baby, as I mentioned, or politics, and I know better than to bring up either in mixed company. It would have been better if Pete had been with me. Most things are. We'll get there, but for now, it's probably better for people to just stop by and visit us.

At home, I am supposed to be a dork.