Baby steps

The pediatrician gave us good news and bad news today. The bad news is that our new baby has two holes in his heart. The good news is that they appear to be small and may resolve themselves in a matter of weeks or months, and that otherwise he is doing much better than expected. James has a ventricular septal defect, which means that there are holes in the membrane between the left and right ventricles. Blood from the left ventricle flows into the right ventricle and into the lungs. With a small defect like the pediatrician suspects James’ to be, there are usually no symptoms and the holes close over time. However, since ultrasound isn’t 100 percent accurate, he did warn us about signs of congestive heart failure, which is a possibility with larger such defects. Luckily, James is showing none of the signs thus far, and the pediatrician will be checking him regularly after he’s released.

Speaking of his release, that brings me to more good news. The nursing staff had warned us that preterm babies sometimes need to remain in the hospital until close to their original due date — which, in our case, is more than a month away. However, since he’s been breathing well and feeding well, the doctor told us it looks like James may be able to come home sometime this weekend. Chris has spent the past few days cleaning and shopping and preparing to bring the baby home, since we had but a few baby outfits (none in a newborn size, let alone preemie clothes!) and no bassinet or bottle nipples to be seen.

After his check by the pediatrician this morning, James passed a milestone of sorts — he moved from the incubator to a wheeled cot like those that hold the other babies in the nursery (well, the other preemies, anyway — healthier babies have wooden bassinet carts rather than large metal ones). He is still hooked up to monitors and is not allowed to leave the nursery, but I can go in now and love on my baby without having to ask a nurse to remove him from the isolette for me.

James has been spending a little more of his day awake now, but still dozes off as soon as he begins eating. In order to be successful off the IV, the staff would like him to take in at least 30 cc of milk at each meal. At his first weighed feed about 11:30 a.m., he drank off only one side for 15 minutes — a very short meal for him — and managed to record an intake of 29 cc anyway. His IV was removed, and at his next three meals, which were more in line with his usual feedings, he consumed 33, 34 and 33 cc of milk, respectively. Not too bad for a 35-weeker!

The highlight of the day came about 8:15 this evening, when little James met his big sister for the first time. I don’t think it really sank in with her that the baby had come out of Mommy’s tummy until we went to the nursery and I held James up for her just inside the nursery doorway. Her eyes lit up and she had the hugest, happiest grin. James didn’t really seem to notice, but Chris and I were happy to finally introduce the babies to each other and we were delighted that Maddi liked her brother so much. We’re hoping it’s the start of a beautiful relationship!

Beautiful dreamer

James is as laid-back in person as he was in utero. He spends much of his time sleeping, and even during heel-prick tests, he wiggles away but isn’t a screamer. He ate once overnight and has been feeding every two to three hours by day. Because he’s tiny and only sucks intermittently, he takes about an hour to eat a meal, but he’s got a good latch and a strong suck. In between meals, he sleeps. When he’s hungry, he wakes up and looks around expectantly (but without a fuss or fret to be heard) until he’s fed. As soon as he figures out he’s eating, our little boy’s eyes close again. This is supposed to be pretty typical of newborns, but as you might guess, it wasn’t our experience at all with his sister. I’m definitely not complaining!

This morning, the pediatrician told me that while James is doing very well for his age, he has a bit of a heart murmur. He had a cardiac ultrasound this afternoon to determine what exactly the problem was, and we will learn more when the doctor makes rounds tomorrow morning. Given his good color and overall health, though, the pediatrician and nurses don’t think it will be a significant issue.

Since it’s only been a few months since Maddi weaned, my milk has already begun to come in and by this evening, James’ feedings went down from an hour to about half an hour. He’s had three poops and seems to be getting plenty of food, and the talk around the nursery is that he may go off the IV tomorrow.

Special delivery

Welcome to the world, James William Phillips! (First off, I must make a confession — our son went a full week without a name. But for the sake of readability, I’m going to insert the name we eventually gave him into the posts I wrote during the time he went by “Baby Boy Phillips.”)

James made his grand entrance five weeks ahead of schedule Tuesday, Nov. 28. After getting off bedrest, I won’t say I overdid it, but I had definitely been taking advantage of the relaxed rules on housework and childcare. However, Monday was my “lazy day.” Dr. Goncalves had said I could go to the gym and use the elliptical machine if I wanted to, but after a full weekend, I wasn’t feeling up to much of anything. On Monday, I lay about the house playing with Maddi, watching TV and generally doing nothing at all. Although there was an impressive amount of snow on the ground, I didn’t even take Maddi out to play. It was my day of rest, and I figured I’d pack her into her snowsuit tomorrow and we’d make snowballs. Monday night, Chris and I watched a DVD and then I listened to my hypnobirthing CD and flipped on an episode of “Beverly Hills, 90210” (you’re not supposed to fall directly asleep after practicing your hypnobirthing). It was to be a relaxing end to a relaxing day.

As Brenda made yet another bad decision and Brandon’s eyebrows chewed up ever more scenery, I had a contraction or two, but nothing outside what I’d been experiencing for the past few weeks. Braxton Hicks contractions are typically more noticeable in second and subsequent pregnancies, and while there was a good amount of pressure, my contractions hadn’t been painful or regular. Then, around 1 a.m. Tuesday, as I lay there relaxing in bed after my “lazy day,” not contracting at all and mentally preparing myself for a full night of sleep, I felt a big, warm gush.

I had been to the bathroom shortly before, so I was certain I hadn’t wet my pants. The other options were amniotic fluid or blood, and after my abruption 18 days earlier, I wasn’t ruling out blood. Before the gush had finished, my feet had hit the floor and I was making tracks for the bathroom. Although the last thing a mother usually wants is for her water to break at 35 weeks, I was relieved when I saw that my pajamas were saturated with clear fluid rather than blood. This meant that, while I would be going to the hospital as soon as I had dressed and packed, I would not be lying on the floor and waiting for an ambulance, pondering the fate of my baby.

Chris was in bed but not asleep. I told him my water had broken, and we started packing and preparing and making calls. We had already lined up three potential babysitters for Maddi, but our first line of defense, Aunt Kathy, was an hour away before factoring the ice on the roads. I called Maddi’s daycare operator, who had volunteered her services day or night when baby came, but there was no answer. Ditto for my playgroup friend, Krista, who babysat Maddi during my previous hospital stay. Since I wasn’t having contractions or bleeding, though, I figured we’d have plenty of time to call them later in the morning.

At the hospital, everything was normal. My water had broken, but I wasn’t in labor and the baby was doing fine. The on-call OB told me that I could expect to go into labor within the next day. About 3:30 a.m., Chris took Maddi home for some sleep before our busy day.

After he left, I had some bloodwork done and lay down to get some sleep of my own about 4 o’clock. Breakfast is served at 8, and I figured four hours was better than nothing. But as I lay there, sleep was hard to find. I’d relax and start drifting off, only to have a contraction. The contractions were mild, but distracting. I practiced my hypnobirthing technique during contractions, hoping that I’d be relaxed enough to fall asleep before the next one. But pretty soon, the contractions were coming very close together and were too intense to relax through — especially since I’d only begun practicing three days earlier!

At 5, I rang for the nurse, who determined that my contractions were two to three minutes apart. I was about 3 cm dilated and 80 percent effaced (I’d been high and thick just two hours earlier). At this point, my hypnobirthing techniques and breathing weren’t working at all, and I was annoyed but not surprised when I heard the nurse tell the OB that the baby was still OP (occiput posterior, or facing outward rather than toward my spine). That meant I was having back labor. Again. Considering that I hadn’t yet woken up the entire hospital with my agonized screams as I had with Maddi, I reckoned the hypnobirthing had been some help, after all. However, it wasn’t exactly a walk in the park, so I asked for an epidural. The anesthetist was summoned, and then the nurse called Chris. It was about 5:30. The epidural was in around 5:40 and another cervical check showed I was dilated 6-7 cm. After a few contractions, we realized the epidural hadn’t made it to my left side so well, and the nurse helped me roll onto that side to get the anesthesia working.

No sooner had I rolled onto my side than I had another contraction, and this time, I felt the urge to push. I told the doctor, who examined me and found I was at 8-9 cm — I’d progressed two centimeters in fewer than 10 minutes. Delivery was imminent and since the baby was to be five weeks early, the pediatrician was called in. In another two contractions, I was 10 cm dilated and began pushing about 6 a.m. Having been called just 30 minutes earlier, Chris was still on his way. The roads were covered in snow and Maddi had to be dropped at the sitter, whose house is about a half-hour roundtrip detour off the 20-minute drive to the hospital. I asked if we could wait, but the baby’s heart rate was dropping and he needed to come out soon. Our little boy was tiny and began crowning on the second push, but we had to wait through another contraction for the pediatrician to arrive before I could continue pushing him out. Meanwhile, nurses were readying the incubator, oxygen and other equipment for the baby.

The doctor instructed me not to push too strenuously, because our little boy was premature and could fly across the room with a good, hard push. However, since the epidural had only been administered 20-odd minutes before, I was feeling very numb on one side and still in intense pain on the other side, so it was hard to gauge what my muscles were doing. I pushed for two more contractions without much progress, and the doctor was practically yelling at me at this point because the baby’s heart rate was dipping dangerously low. An episiotomy was performed and I pushed as hard as I could despite my worry about shooting my baby against the wall. Finally, just as the contraction was about to end, his head popped out. One more push and the rest of the baby came out easily, instantly relieving the excruciating pain on the un-epiduraled left side of my body. At 6:16 a.m. PST, our little son entered the world wiggling and squeaking.

Little James was much less little than I thought he’d be. He was big and pink and beautiful, the best-looking newborn I’d ever seen. His delivery had been so rapid — just a little more than two hours between the first contraction and the last push — that he hadn’t had time to get all squashed and stressed out like most newborns. He let out a few kittenlike cries as they suctioned him, and scored a 9 on both the 1-minute and 5-minute APGARs. At 5 pounds, 12 ounces, he was big and healthy-looking for a 35-weeker, especially a boy. The nurses cooed over his round little head and his handsome features.

Unfortunately, as healthy as he was for a 35-weeker, he was still a month premature. Instead of snuggling and feeding my baby as I’d outlined in my birth plan (a plan I’d optimistically written for a baby born closer to term), I was allowed to hold him for about 15-30 seconds, then kissed him goodbye before he was whisked off to the nursery for assessment and treatment. The placenta was delivered shortly thereafter, and sure enough, when the doctor held it up for me, I noticed several large clots toward one edge of the organ, confirming that I’d had an abruption. Luckily, it looked as if less than a quarter of the placenta had been involved, which means that the baby had plenty of oxygen and nutrition — hence his relatively impressive birthweight.

Speeding down snowy streets after dropping off Maddi, Chris arrived within 30 minutes of the birth, and was heartbroken to discover that he’d missed the big event. However, the health of the baby comes first and we were happy when the pediatrician told us James was doing very well. He was breathing well but staff placed him under an oxygen hood to make it easier on him, and he was receiving IV fluids. The pediatrician warned us that at his age, James could face several common problems, including temperature regulation, breathing issues, feeding difficulties and jaundice. Chris went to the nursery to visit our handsome little son, and, as I was not allowed to get up yet, I laid back and enjoyed not being in back labor.

Chris’ mother showed up about a half-hour after he did, and while I waited for an assessment and transfer to the postpartum wing, they visited the baby and showed me the pictures they’d taken of James on their cameras. He had looked so big when the doctor held him up, but in the photographs, he looked so tiny lying there in the incubator, tiny legs poking out of a preemie diaper and wires and tubes coming out everywhere. Despite all that, he was still pink and perfect and other than the oxygen seemed to be doing very well. However, the pediatrician warned us that our little preterm baby wouldn’t be able to leave the nursery for at least 24 to 48 hours and would not be leaving the hospital for five or six days at best. I would probably be pumping rather than breastfeeding until he’d been deemed well enough to feed.

After I’d been moved to my new room, Chris and Nana headed home. In the afternoon, after my nap, the pediatrician stopped by to let me know that James was off the oxygen and doing very well — so well, in fact, that I could go in and breastfeed him after all. He’d been moved into a new, less-intimidating incubator and was resting comfortably between two babies who were receiving phototherapy. James latched on instantly and it was immediately clear that, early bird though he was, he had a strong sucking reflex. He nursed for about an hour before going back in his incubator, dozing on and off all the while. As early, rapid and unexpected as his birth was, our little baby looks like he’s going to be just fine.

And — you knew it was coming — here’s the very final belly pic, taken at 35 weeks (and just three or four hours before baby arrived!).

And we can’t forget the birthday boy himself — here’s James about an hour after his birth:

Bottoms up!

Which do you want to hear first — the good news or the good news?

Guess I’ll start off with the good news. The baby has finally moved out of the breech position. On today’s visit to Dr. G, his head was lying low in my pelvis and his feet were kicking happily away at the left side of my ribcage. That means that I won’t be needing a C-section unless the abruption progresses or the baby goes into distress.

The better news is that, since the bleeding has been resolving itself, I am finally allowed off the couch. Yes, the baby and I are both off our butts now. I am allowed to do light housework (but not vacuuming), child care and short shopping trips again, so long as it doesn’t exacerbate my pelvic pressure and contractions. This is good, because I was going insane lying on the couch all day.

Enjoying my newfound freedom, Chris and I immediately headed to the store and picked up some newborn diapers and other things we might need should I go into labor in the next little while. With our first pregnancy, at 32 weeks, Chris and I had purchased many wee outfits, most of the necessities, ordered furniture and started to ready the nursery. With this baby, we had purchased one sleeper (in the 3-month size — no use to a newborn and especially to a preemie) and had no nonpink receiving blankets, changing pads or diapers (unless he arrives weighing 22-37 pounds). We won’t even discuss the furniture situation. It’s not that we don’t want to buy things for the new baby, or that it’s an afterthought. We’ve just been waiting until we had more money — because we thought we had more time! After all, Maddi waited right up until Week 39, Day 5 to make her grand debut.

Of course now we are just a wee concerned that we’re not going to make it that far. In fact, Dr. Goncalves cautioned me against being too active, as he wants the baby to stay in for two more weeks. I’d rather that were a given than a goal, but such is high-risk pregnancy, I suppose! So, while I am excited to get the house ready for the impending arrival of the wee one, I am also trying to take it easy and not exert myself too much in my eagerness to clean the house, ready the nursery, and amass an adequate supply of clothes and blankets that do not contain lace, ribbon, or the colors pink or purple.

Just in case my freedom-induced nesting frenzy throws me into labor, however, my labor and hospital bags are now packed and in the car!

Holding pattern

It’s been a week today since I was released from the hospital, and I am delighted to say that the baby is still baking. At this point, every week — nay, every day — improves the chances of having a healthy baby tremendously.

For at least another day and a half, I’m on bedrest with bathroom privileges (lucky me!), but if I seem to be doing well at Wednesday’s OB appointment, there’s a possibility I may be able to pick up some more slack in the caregiving and housework departments. Currently, when Maddi needs food or a diaper change, I have to summon Chris to hoist her into the high chair or onto the change table. It’s nearly impossible to be a mom and obey the conditions of my bedrest, but I’ll do whatever I have to to keep the baby incubating. I just hope I don’t have to do it much longer!

He’s still breech, so we may be looking at a C-section. I’m not sure how safe a vaginal birth and the attendant contractions would be with a recent abruption anyway, especially since we don’t know the extent of the separation, so that’s something we may be discussing at Wednesday’s appointments. I had hoped to have an unmedicated hypnobirthing delivery this time around, and certainly never expected to have a C-section, but the baby’s safety is much more important than my birth plan.

Whatever way the baby will be coming out, I’ve resigned myself to the knowledge that we’re probably not going to go 41 weeks (putting his birthday well past Christmas) as I had hoped. Among many other things placental abruptions affect, they often precipitate preterm birth, which is defined as the baby arriving before 37 weeks. They’re also associated with low birthweight, which could be because the baby’s getting insufficient nutrients or (and this is what I’m thinking) the baby is just past the 37-week threshold and is therefore still smaller than your average 39-odd-week newborn.

One thing I am really concerned about is that this may be our last baby. Placental abruptions happen in about 1 in 200 pregnancies, but the odds rise to 1 in 10 for mothers with a previous abruption. Add that to the fact that C-sections themselves increase the odds of a subsequent abruption, and I’m looking at a pretty fair chance of this happening again. Although the outcome thus far has been OK, it’s been quite an emotional roller coaster for all of us. Even absent the knowledge that the risk will be even higher next pregnancy, I had been wondering if I had the fortitude to go through another pregnancy and spend nine months worrying whether my body would fail my baby.

There are some days when I am tempted to go to the hospital and pre-emptively have my little son taken out by C-section, just on the off chance that the abruption progresses. I know this is a silly idea and it would be incredibly irresponsible to deliver a baby this young for a partial abruption that’s being well controlled by bedrest, but I can’t help myself from conjuring up doom-and-gloom scenarios as I lie in the bed where, a week and a half ago, I began hemorrhaging inexplicably in my sleep.

Although I try to keep my mind off the worst-case scenario, it’s hard to lie about on bedrest and not let my mind wander into dark territory. I constantly find myself kick-counting and treating my midsection as if it were fragile as an eggshell. I celebrate each day that passes without complication, but the joy I once felt at the movements of my wee boy has been replaced with the grim imagining that every movement could be his last. As much as each day that passes brings my baby closer to term, I fear that each day also is another day our little son is trapped inside my body with a faulty placenta that could tear away completely at any minute.

Is this rational? Probably not. But the responsibility of being another human’s sole life-support system — and the knowledge that one’s track record has been less than stellar thus far — weighs so heavily that it’s impossible for my desires for a full-term baby not to be tempered with a modicum of dread.

At the same time, I am, paradoxically, anxious to come off bedrest and care for my other child. Perhaps part of me is looking forward to keeping my body and mind busy — too busy to envision the placenta shearing away from the uterus; too busy to imagine a preterm C-section and a NICU stay.

Bedrest sounds wonderful when you’re not on it, but I’ve found (for the second time this pregnancy) that while it probably does the baby a world of good, what it does for the mom is create lots of spare time to worry and obsess about the condition that put her there.

Hang in there, little guy!

And here they are: The week 34 belly pics!

Free at last

I’m free! Well, sort of.

Monday morning, the OB finally let me leave the hospital — but with strict instructions to do no lifting, walking, housework or child care. While I can stand for a shower and sit for dinner, I am supposed to spend as much time possible lying down. Easier said than done, of course, when you have a toddler, but I am doing my best to keep the baby in there as long as possible.

It feels great to wear my own clothes, use my own bathroom, eat real food and to not be hooked up to an IV. Maddi has been sleeping a lot better since I got home, so consequently Chris has been feeling a bit less zombielike. We’ve got the living room babyproofed within an inch of its life, so I’ve spent the past several days lying on the sofa as Maddi plays to her heart’s content.

That’s not to say that I’m not still a bit stressed out. No sooner had I gotten my hypnobirthing DVD set than I found out I might not even be delivering vaginally at all. With a breech baby who may or may not have a short cord, and a placental abruption that likely won’t be healed over by the time I deliver, I’m not sure I’ll be able to avoid a C-section without endangering the baby. That’s just one more question for Dr. Goncalves at my follow-up appointment next week.

However, the good news is that our little boy is getting bigger and bigger and kicking up a storm. Every day that he remains inside my body, he gets healthier and more prepared for his debut. It is weird knowing that he will most likely be born before January, and that he may be a November baby, but between the steroid shots and the fact that we’ve already made it to nearly 34 weeks, I am hopeful that he will be a healthy little guy when the time does arrive.

Diary of a MadMad

This week, I was unexpectedly plunged into a world without Mommy. One day you’re at the library, singing and dancing with your mom, and at the gym’s daycare, playing with your little friends and knowing that your mother will be back in no more than 90 minutes, ready for a full day of book-reading, yogurt-dispensing and game-playing with you. The next, you’re rudely awakened by your crazed mother knocking things off shelves as she packs for the hospital, flashing lights outside your bedroom window, and the sight of your mommy being hauled off on a stretcher by serious, busy-looking men, waving bye-bye with an obviously fake smile.

Friday, Nov. 10

Still in the throes of cutting my canines (don’t you think that is bad enough?), I was totally blindsided in the wee hours of Friday by my mommy’s sudden hospitalization. Seven hours before, I’d capped a day of story requests and furniture jumping with a lasagna dinner and a bubble bath with a pink fizzie (a special treat and only my second fizzie ever!) and been put gently and sweetly to bed by Mommy and Daddy as happens every night. Those silly parents of mine hadn’t yet talked to me about the day Mommy would go to the hospital, stay for a while, and return with my new brother. (Mommy’s note: With two months to go, it seemed silly to get her stressed out over something so distantly removed from her current itinerary). And there I was, with no warning at all, racing to the hospital with Daddy and seeing my mom in a ridiculous blue gown which my fashionable mother would never wear and hooked up to IVs and monitors.

When Daddy and I left the hospital around 3:30 a.m., I was expecting Mommy to leave with us. And when we got home, I wondered where she was. After all, the longest waking time she has spent away from me has been four or five hours, and that has always been in the daytime with Daddy taking me on fun outings or in the evening with Nana rubbing my back while I fall asleep after a proper goodbye to Mommy and Daddy and some fun and games with Nana.

When Daddy took me home, it was 4:30 a.m. before I was in bed. It was 6 when I woke up, and there was no going back to sleep. It was “Mama, mama, mama” all morning. And why wouldn’t it be? Daddy gets up with me many mornings, but at some point, Mommy gets up and takes me to the gym or the library or playgroup or swimming class (with Daddy on the sidelines taking pictures, of course!). And Friday morning, I didn’t see Mommy until after noon, and it was in a crowded ultrasound room. Then Mommy got into a large and odd-looking stroller and was pushed around in it. Mama seemed very excited about the stroller, but I wasn’t buying it. To top it off, instead of going home and reading me stories, Mommy was delivered into a strange room, where she got into bed (what’s up with that? Mommies don’t sleep!) and gingerly held me in her lap, keeping my inquisitive hands away from her very fascinating IV site.

By our second visit later in the day, I wanted nothing to do with my mommy. I couldn’t bear to look into the face of the mommy who abandoned me, and didn’t want kisses, hugs or snuggles. Twice I had come to this place and seen Mommy lying around hooked up to tubes. Twice I had hoped for Mommy to come home and read “Rainbow Fish” to me, ad nauseam, and sing the bouncing rhymes we’d learned at the library. And twice Mommy had kissed me goodbye and remained in the hospital instead of being a good mommy and coming home to take care of me in the manner to which I have become accustomed.

Daddy put me to bed at 9:30, but not before I pooped in the tub. Daddy doesn’t have a strong tummy like Mommy does, and I’m banking on this. It will be only a matter of time before my big, strong (but weak-stomached and sleep-needing) daddy is all but forced to drag my wayward mommy back home to tend to my every need. After all, that tub isn’t going to clean itself, and I’m gonna need a bath again soon.

Saturday, Nov. 11

Despite my late bedtime yesterday, I woke at six and did not nap. Daddy must be punished too, after all, as I suspect he is partly responsible for this whole pregnancy situation. We brought Mommy a book, but I was still mad at her, so I spent my time trying to hide under the interesting mechanical beds and running out into the hallway to investigate the crying babies. After we visited Mommy and I refused to give her any hugs or kisses, Daddy brought me to my friend Delaney’s house. Since Delaney and her mommy had nothing to do with my mommy’s betrayal of me, I behaved very nicely except for one incident where Delaney pushed me and I smacked her a good one. But when we dropped by Mommy’s new home that night, I told Mommy that I played nicely with Delaney and had a good time, so she’s none the wiser. No time-out for me! Ha! (Mommy’s note: Delaney’s mommy now has permission to give time-outs for violence.)

I grudgingly gave Mommy a sweet kiss before Daddy and I left her tonight, but only because she bounced me and sang fun songs we learned at the library, and I suspected she did it against doctor’s orders. However, I was still mad at her and Daddy. I noticed Daddy had accidentally brought home the cell phone instead of leaving it for Mommy, so I asked for Mommy all night knowing she didn’t have a phone in her room. I’m certain if I make life miserable enough for Daddy, he will make Mommy move back in with us. Daddy put me in bed at 9, and I cried until 10.

Sunday, Nov. 12

I woke at 6 again. This is getting to be exhausting, but I’ve outlasted Mommy before, so I know I can outlast Daddy. I had the sniffles, but it was worth it. My crazy hours have pushed my sleepless Daddy into catching the flu. Since he was running a fever and had every respiratory symptom in the book, I figured that a little mischief might be just the thing he needed to motivate him to drag Mommy home by the hair and make her serve me. So I climbed in the drawers of the entertainment unit, stuck my hands in the VCR and hid in the closet, throwing shoes willy-nilly.

Unfortunately, Daddy apparently has tricks of his own. He took the knobs off the closet and drawers and now that stupid living room is nearly completely me-proof. Now all that’s left to do is jump from one item of furniture to another, and Mommy and Daddy are used to me doing this and don’t have a real problem with it … so where’s the fun in that? Daddy hasn’t given me another bath, so I’m saving my poop. I’ll get my mommy back home yet if I have to drive Daddy crazy in the trying.

Today, I felt kind of sorry for her since she seemed to genuinely miss me. I’m still not entirely convinced that she’s not just doing this to be mean to me, and I am worried that she will never come home and take care of me again, but I gave her some snuggles and blew kisses anyway. I even sat on her lap and enjoyed some more bounces and rhymes and songs. Well, until Daddy left to get my diaper bag. I am so used to Daddy taking care of me that I started to worry when he didn’t come right back. Let’s face it, Mommy is pretty useless lying in bed with tubes in her, and her new apartment is boring. Plus, Daddy has been reading my stories, and he even makes the dolphin noises in “Rainbow Fish” like Mommy does. Between that and Mommy abandoning me, Mommy and Daddy are just about even in terms of my wanting to be cared for by them. But I have to say, Mommy did my diaper change this afternoon and she’s just so much better at it than Daddy. I guess I’d better keep kicking and trying to get up and crawl away so he can get good at it like Mommy did. Daddy strolled me out of Mommy’s new apartment and I didn’t look back. I’ve almost given up on getting Mommy back home. I will keep working on Daddy, of course, but I miss Mommy so much that it’s hard for me to punish her.

Daddy, on the other hand, is nearly broken. Tonight, I overheard him call Mommy and say he couldn’t take it anymore and she needed to call Delaney’s mommy again and that he wanted me to go to Delaney’s as early in the morning as possible and be gone as long as I could. Tomorrow, I get to go to Delaney’s at 8 and have a fun day with my friend. With any luck, her mommy will sit me on the counter and put my hair in two ponytails again. I should learn how to talk better so I can tell Mommy that Delaney’s mom makes better ponytails than she does. It’s true. Anyway, I suspect Daddy is planning to use my playdate as part of some nefarious plan to catch up on his sleep so that he can deal with my campaign of terror. I don’t think he understands who he is dealing with.

Tonight, Daddy gave me a dose and a half of Benadryl per the pharmacist’s instruction. It’s supposed to make me drowsy so I won’t stay up all night and wake at unholy hours of the morning. Just to show Daddy who’s boss around here, I screamed for an hour and 20 minutes in my crib. He called Mommy, and it’s a good thing because I was ready to pass out after all that Benadryl. I fell asleep while they were on the phone, but not before driving Daddy to the brink of insanity and causing Mommy great distress at the situation. Hopefully, she’ll come to her senses and be home and ready to feed me breakfast by 6 a.m. tomorrow.

Monday, Nov. 13

I woke up bright and early again at 4:30 this morning. Unfortunately, when the door opened, it was just Daddy. I think my plan is working pretty well though, because he seemed barely human today.

Daddy brought me to Delaney’s house again. All this staying up late, rising early and not napping was really getting to me, so I had an hour of quiet time in the morning on Delaney’s couch, and then a nice nap in the afternoon. I hope Delaney’s mommy doesn’t tell Daddy and Mommy, because then they’ll be even worse with the nap enforcement. I’m sure she’s on my side, though, because I am sweet and play nicely when I’m there!

About an hour from bedtime, Daddy showed up. And you’ll never guess who came into the house behind Daddy. Mommy!!! I finally did it! Since she wasn’t wearing that ugly dress or hooked up to any machines, I gave her a nice hug (after a thorough inspection, of course). I am definitely not letting Mommy out of my sight ever again.

Wednesday, Nov. 14

It has been so nice having Mommy back!!! I am sleeping through the night and taking all my naps and generally being the sweetest little girl in the world. Mommy and Daddy haven’t had it so well in several months. I have been in the best mood EVER, now that my precious Mommy is back to serve me! I have noticed that she doesn’t pick me up and has Daddy do a lot of things, but I am too glad to have her back to take much advantage of it. (Sure, I don’t take her threats of time-outs seriously anymore because I know she’s not going to move from that couch, but did you know that daddies can give time-outs too? I sure didn’t! But I’m only doing slightly naughty stuff to test my boundaries. I hardly ever hit or kick her in the tummy anymore!)

I have been giving Mommy and the baby extra kisses the last few days, too, so that she never goes away again. It was really hard living without proper baths, cream-cheese-and-honey sandwiches, and the silly songs we sing at library toddler time. I know that Mommy is bored lying there on the couch instead of taking me to the gym or vacuuming with me in the backpack, so I’ve been keeping her busy reading me all my favorite stories and drawing pictures of dolphins and kittycats for me on the Magnadoodle.

And just to reward my dear prodigal Mommy for coming home, I even pooped on the potty last night after my bath. Am I a good toddler or what? Mommy will never, ever leave me again! (Except, she says, to have the baby. But that had better not require a four-day hospital stay — or else!)

And here is a picture of me with my unfashionably dressed Mommy, before I got her to move out of her apartment. Notice how I am totally giving her the cold shoulder! Kids, this is exactly how you should treat your mommy if she abandons you. It’s definitely a tough-love approach — but it works!

Best laid plans

I woke up on Saturday brimming with anticipation. After 36 hours in the hospital, I was about to be cleared to go home. Yes, bedrest would continue at home, but I’d be with my sweet hubby and daughter in the comfort of my own home. All I had planned for the day was a non-stress for the baby, a nice shower and my inevitable discharge.

The OB, however, had other ideas. After coming on her shift and reviewing the baby’s nonstress test, which showed that I was still having contractions, she decided that she wanted to keep me in my bed for at least another 24 hours. Between the bleeding, the dilation, the contractions, and the fact that the baby was breech, she was concerned that I might go into labor and need a C-section. Since the baby is so young and C-sections don’t squeeze the goop out of the lungs like vaginal deliveries do, I agreed to two steroid shots to help the baby’s lungs mature and begin producing surfactant. The first would be administered shortly, and the second 24 hours later. I wouldn’t be going home this morning or anytime today. In fact, there was a possibility I wouldn’t be going home the next day, either, although with a toddler at home the OB said she was thinking she’d discharge me after 24 hours instead of the usual 48 when steroids are involved.

Chris and Maddi arrived minutes after the doctor left, all ready to take me home. Maddi would no longer look at me, having seen Mommy only to say goodbye within the hour several times over the past few days. Chris was feeling worse than the day before and needed a break in a bad way. Even though nothing I had done was to blame for the bleeding, I was overwhelmed with guilt because it was my body that had failed and was threatening the well-being of our baby boy, for whom just a few hours before the hospital trip we’d been giddily picking out potential names. And it was my body that caused Chris to have to care for a now severely sleep-deprived tot and Maddi to go so long without Mommy to read to her, sing silly songs and give her baths.

I arranged for another mom from Maddi’s playgroup to babysit for the day so Chris could go home and get some needed rest. Unfortunately, the sweetheart took it upon himself to transfer some movies onto the laptop so I’d have something to watch in my hospital bed once I finished my book. He hardly got a nap at all, but at least Maddi had a change of scenery and got to play with a friend.

With a book and, later that evening, some movies, my day and night passed much more quickly than the previous day had. As I lay down to sleep, I once again smiled in anticipation of going home to my loved ones. In just 14 hours, I thought as I lay down, I would be home snuggling with my daughter and reassuring her that Mommy was home now — and giving my poor, run-down hubby a much-needed reprieve from the difficult task of telling an angry toddler that Mommy isn’t home. With two shots of steriods and next to no bleeding in the past 24 hours, I felt confident that my little son was going to be OK.

But as fate would have it — I should have known, considering the events of the past few days — I was not going to be going home. At 4:20 a.m., I woke up in the middle of a long and painful contraction. I went to the bathroom, hoping that emptying my bladder would release pressure on my uterus and stop the contractions, but it didn’t and at 5 a.m. I broke down and rang for the nurse. She upped my IV flow, which had been reduced before bedtime because I’d been eating and drinking on my own, and it seemed to help for a few minutes. However, throughout the 5 o’clock hour, I continued having crampy contractions. I finally fell asleep, waking at 9 to cold, rubbery hospital pancakes and a toonie’s (the Canadian $2 coin, slightly bigger than a silver dollar) worth of blood in my pad. I got the distinct feeling that this wasn’t going to help my case for going home.

When my nurse came in later in the morning for the baby’s non-stress test, she informed me that Chris had a 102.6 degree fever and an ear, nose and throat infection, and that Maddi had a runny nose as well. He wanted me to stay in the hospital another day rather than come home to germs. As much as I was relieved that the now-inevitable 24-hour extension was something we could all agree on, I felt awful. This meant poor Chris, working on virtually no sleep, was going to have to take care of a sick, teething toddler who hadn’t had proper sleep in two nights, all while battling the flu. I had cared for a sick Maddi a week earlier with a sinus infection while Chris was in Vancouver, so I knew what he’d be dealing with and it’s no picnic. Add on top of that the fact that she is used to me taking care of her and hadn’t missed overmuch sleep, whereas she is used to several hours of the day — but certainly not whole days and nights — with just Daddy and had been consistently missing naps and going to bed late AND crying for an hour after bedtime. Sure enough, between the dilation, continued contractions, renewed bleeding and illness at home, the OB said there was no way she’d let me go home today.

When Chris came by unexpectedly to visit this afternoon, bearing hot cider from Starbucks and the day’s paper, Maddi had napped only briefly since 6 a.m. — as they drove into the hospital parking lot, as a matter of fact. I nearly cried when I saw them. Chris was clammy and sweaty. Maddi was wearing the same clothes as the day before and looking irritable and red-cheeked. I sang a few songs with Maddi, changed my first diaper in three days and begged Chris to give our little girl some Benadryl so they could both get some sleep.

He went home and enjoyed a whole 10 minutes of sleep before Maddi got tired of trying to take a nap and began shrieking like a howler monkey. I sat through more fetal monitoring and hemoglobin tests and pee tests and vitals and hospital food, and felt incredibly guilty about enjoying Harry Potter on the laptop while my husband and toddler were sick and tired and quite possibly going insane. After a frantic call from a sleep-deprived and frustrated Chris, I called my friend from playgroup and asked her if she could take Maddi again tomorrow, starting at 8. Maddi can’t go very long without kids to play with, and Chris was at the end of his rope, having had 12 (broken) hours of sleep in total since taking me to the hospital early Friday.

Even though I knew it was best for the baby that I stay away from sick people, and certainly that I avoid the lifting and running that are inevitable when caring for an active child such as Maddi, it broke my heart that I could not be there for ALL of my family during their illness. However, I have been trying to comfort myself with the knowledge that I am the only one who can keep our son healthy and unborn, and that Chris is a good and competent parent and will make it through this just as I do when I am sick and home alone. My attempts to comfort myself haven’t been working, but it’s not like there’s anything any of us can do at this point to change the circumstances. All I can do is rest up and hope for my body to heal and for the baby to stay put for at least a few more weeks, if not the seven left before his due date. As terrible as I feel for Chris and Maddi, I am not life support for either of them in any context but the loosest metaphorical; however, the almost-33-weeker inside my uterus is depending on me for food and oxygen, and as much as I would like to take care of them all, he necessarily takes precedence for now.

Pregnancy panic

Pregnancy, while of course completely natural, is such a delicate thing. Thursday morning, I was at the gym, doing 30 minutes of brisk cardio on the ellipticals and pushing 100 pounds on the leg press as usual. Friday morning, I was in the hospital hooked up to an IV and monitors. The two have nothing to do with each other, except to illustrate in stark contrast how a pregnancy can be healthy and complication-free one day and in danger the very next.

Last night I went to bed after a completely uneventful day. No downhill skiing, boxing, horseback riding or car accidents to speak of. My day had consisted of toddler time at the library, the same workout regimen I’ve been doing five times a week since January (save five weeks of reduced activity in the first trimester), and a completely commonplace afternoon spent playing with and feeding Maddi. I’m not sure what woke me up at 2:15 this morning, but as I lay there still half-asleep and working on getting all-the-way asleep again, I felt a warm gush that I was pretty sure wasn’t me peeing myself (although one never knows what one’s pregnant body is capable of).

As much as I didn’t relish the thought of having wet the bed, I went into the bathroom to change my pants and hoped that when I sniffed them, they’d smell of urine rather than amniotic fluid. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to try to determine the source of the fluid, because when I turned the light on and slid my pants down, I was confronted with a large amount of what was very obviously fresh blood. As I sat there on the toilet wondering, still half-asleep, what on earth I had done to the baby and why was this happening and what was I going to do, another gush splashed into the water below.

I racked my brain for causes of bleeding during late pregnancy. Cervical irritation is one, but this was a lot of blood and it had been two nights since I’d done anything that could possibly have irritated my cervix. The only other thing I could think of would be a placental abruption, and after being awakened by something that pregnant women dare not imagine will happen, I began hyperventilating a little and ran to the bed to wake Chris. From finding the blood to awakening my husband, total elapsed time was probably 15 seconds, but it felt like 15 minutes. If the placenta had completely detached, the baby would have but a few minutes to live without oxygen.

I ran back to the bathroom and fumbled in the top cabinet for maxi pads — something I hadn’t used since before we moved. In my haste, I managed to bring down the humidifier (while failing to find any pads), waking Maddi. I rolled up toilet paper and grabbed a pair of underwear before Chris’ conversation with the 911 operator reminded me that I should be lying down, not racing around the house like a chicken with its head cut off. As I lay on the living room floor, bleeding and sobbing, I looked back on my day and wondered what I had done to bring this about. Was it reracking the 45-pound weight after my calf presses? Letting Maddi playfully smack my belly? Rolling over to a semi-stomach-sleeping position in bed? All these things I do every day, secure in the knowledge that the baby is protected by an ocean of amniotic fluid and the placenta is safely tucked behind the baby rather than out in front as Maddi’s was — yet I refused to believe that I was not somehow to blame for what I, by this time, assumed was my baby’s horrible demise.

As I was heaving with tears and shivering from shock, Chris packed my prescriptions and readied Maddi for a trip to the hospital. The ambulance took what seemed like an eternity to arrive, and I was irritated with their questions. Couldn’t they fill my chart out on the way to the hospital? My little boy, I thought, was in grave danger if not already dead, and we didn’t have time for my weight, birthdate and street address. Yet more time was spent trying to insert an IV, but my veins were already a bit collapsed from blood loss and mercifully the paramedics didn’t push it. The trip to Kelowna was made in the time it usually takes me to drive to the grocery store (about a quarter of the distance).

In the ambulance, I thought I felt some small movements from the baby, but the ride was so bouncy I didn’t want to get my hopes up. Knowing that it had been much longer than 10 minutes since the gushes of blood, I realized that if my placenta had completely detached, any movement I was feeling would be nothing more than the pressure of a dead baby hitting my abdominal wall as we bumped over the potholes. I wasn’t sure how much I had bled at this point, or how much blood to expect from a complete vs. a partial abruption, but as much as I wanted to hold out for the best-case scenario, it felt as if I’d be tempting fate to hope for anything more than being allowed to hold my sweet son before burying him.

The paramedics raced me through the ER entrance and into Labour and Delivery where I was quickly given an IV in a larger vein and hooked up to a fetal monitor. I could hardly believe it when my dear baby’s heartbeat sounded from the machine. The rate was quite a bit higher than usual, but the baby was still there. I know I should have still been worried, because I was only 32 weeks, 4 days pregnant and definitely not out of the woods, but all that mattered was that my babe was still alive. And if he was still alive — whatever was wrong with me — now that we were in the hospital he could be rescued if we took a turn for the worse. That little 168-beat-per-minute chugging sound was the best thing I’ve ever heard in my life. I had lost my baby and found him again.

We spent a tense night in a four-person room that is apparently normally used for mothers-to-be who come in for non-stress tests. Chris and Maddi showed up perhaps 20 minutes after we did — not having the luxury of a vehicle with a siren and a mandate to break the speed limit — and gave me some much-needed moral support as I found out from the OB on call that I was 2 cm dilated and contracting. We viewed our son on ultrasound and no obvious problems presented themselves, so another ultrasound was scheduled for later that morning on a fancier, more high-tech machine downstairs in radiology. I sent Chris and Maddi home to get a little sleep — although I knew that Chris probably wouldn’t — and the nurses drew more blood and conducted a non-stress test on the baby. I managed to get a few hours’ sleep between 6 and 8 before expectant mothers began arriving for their much less stressful non-stress tests. Not knowing whether I was going to deliver my wee one that day (in fact, the OB had ordered that I not be given anything to eat or drink given the possibility of an emergency C-section), I couldn’t help but envy these 40-week moms as they listened to the heartbeats and movements of their fully-developed and ready-to-come babies and talked about scheduling inductions. Up until now, I’d expected to be one of those full-term moms mulling inductions. But after the events of this morning, instead of hoping that he’ll make it as far past Christmas as possible, I’m now facing the possibility that he could be born within the next few weeks.

Finally, my ultrasound appointment rolled around. The technician was training a student, so everything was gone over twice. Nothing was amiss, save that the baby was small for his date — but I’d expected that, as mothers who work out regularly deliver smaller (but no less healthy) newborns. Even a thorough ultrasound examination of the placenta (twice) found nothing visibly amiss. When the OB came by later, he said that it’s quite common for the cause of bleeding to remain a mystery.

(By the way, the ultrasound technician gave Chris some pictures of the baby, who happens to be completely adorable and looks just like his daddy and sisters.)

Around 4, I was permitted a snack. Dinner was an hour out when the doctor gave the OK for food and drink, but my stomach couldn’t take a minute more. After a bit of toast from the nurses, I was moved to a semiprivate room where I am expected to stay until about Saturday afternoon, per the doctor’s orders to observe me for 36 hours from when I came in. Dinner was horrible, but it was the best tuna-salad sandwich and split-pea soup I ever ate, considering that I was pregnant and starving. Chris and Maddi came by after dinner with a John Grisham novel from the hospital gift shop — a godsend as Canadian hospital rooms do not come standard with TVs as they do in the states — and hugs and kisses. I also ran into one of the two other pregnant moms from Maddi’s playgroup, who had just delivered her son the morning before. He was fat and rosy and adorable, and if I hadn’t been in the hospital, terrified of delivering a 32-week preemie, I would have yearned to hold my own little son and kiss his sweet newborn toes.

The doctor came by while I was visiting with Tressa and told me that he thought I would be ready to leave tomorrow, but that he was leaving that call up to the OB who will be taking the next shift. If I do go home, he emphasized, I’d be going home to put my feet up for at least 10 days.

As excited as I am at the idea of going home, I have mixed emotions about the prospect of bedrest. Obviously I don’t want to deliver a preterm baby and goodness knows it had been a long time since I have spent a day in bed and been brought food, but there is also the issue of his very active sister. Chris is coming down with a cold, and on top of that has another job besides playing Mr. Mom, and it is very clear that after nearly 24 hours of dealing with a sleep-deprived, teething toddler that Daddy is in need of a break. Not to mention that three hospital visits in one day, with Mommy wearing a bizarre gown and hooked up to an IV pole — and each visit ending with a goodbye rather than Mommy coming home — have taken their toll on Maddi and she is now visibly upset every time she visits. This is the first time I have spent more than three or four hours away from Maddi and the first time we’ve woken up more than a few steps down the hall from each other, and it hit her hard. I feel helpless to care for either child properly — the one in my uterus is at the mercy of my faulty body, and the one at home, suffering so at the sudden loss of her primary caregiver, I cannot return to without jeopardizing the fragile life of the tiny one within.

Last night, I watched “Ugly Betty” and “ER,” ate lasagna and chocolate cake and went to bed in my own house, my husband and daughter nearby and baby incubating safely (or so I thought) inside me as he’d done for the past seven months. Tonight, I read a cheesy paperback in an adjustable steel bed, dined on hospital food, and missed my husband and daughter terribly. And for the first time since getting a clean bill of health at my 10-week appointment, I lay wondering and worrying about the fate of the little one inside me.

A tail of two ponies

The moment every mother waits for has finally arrived. (Well, not my mother, since she didn’t have to wait for it with me!) No, silly, not university graduation, although we will shouting it from the rooftops and dancing in the street when that day comes. The day when a mommy is first able to corral those fine baby hairs into her daughter’s very first ponytails.

Maddi, unlike yours truly, was not blessed with a full head of hair at birth. For the first many months of her life, she bore a striking resemblance to the old man from the Monopoly game (and occasionally to the albino mouse of “Pinky and the Brain”). Slowly but surely, however, our little daughter has managed to grow herself a nice — if spotty — head of hair. It went from baby mohawk to baby mullet almost overnight, and in the two months since we cut it, it’s already gotten shaggy again (except on the sides, which remain mysteriously baldish).

My first attempts at twisting her hair into wee ponytails were less than successful, as the first ponytail came out before the second was completed. However, through trial and error and a hint from a mom in Maddi’s playgroup, I perfected the process by twisting the elastic a few extra times and voila! We have ponytails!

Now, on mornings when I have time before the gym, Maddi sits patiently on the bathroom counter for her hairdressing appointment, playing with faucets and hairbrushes and toothpaste and contact lens cases and scissors I have foolishly left where I thought she couldn’t reach them. I must say that the ponytails make her neat, tidy and very girly-girly. And, for reasons I will never know but certainly won’t question, she actually enjoys having me tug and yank and torture her strands with elastic bands as I force her hair into unnaturally spiky little “bunny ears” or a single “alien antenna.” Yes, I’m not sure why, but there is no styling her hair into anything non-spiky unless it’s sopping wet. It’s like Alfalfa’s cowlick — you can’t keep a good ‘do down! Luckily, she looks adorable in pretty much any coiffure, so “bunny ears” will suit her just fine for now.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


In other news, just as I was beginning to consider having our once-loquacious little one evaluated for a hearing or autistic spectrum disorder, Maddi regained all the vocabulary words that had previously been rejected for “ball.” Not only that, but in the past week or so, she’s come up with all kinds of new words, some with hardly any exposure beforehand, and put together a few new sentences. New words include “shoes,” “cheese,” “yogurt” (or ghoo-gut, as she calls it), “doodle” (for her Magnadoodle), “snow,” “juice,” “Mum-Mum” (a brand of baby crackers) and isolated but fairly competent attempts at “granola” and “Newton” (the fig cookie, not the mathematician and physicist). During one of the rare days when I was able to read more than a few paragraphs at a time, I was thumbing through “What to Expect in the Toddler Years” and came upon a portion stating that big life changes (such as our recent move) can contribute to speech regressions. Woulda been nice to know …

She also has — after a mere eight months or so — taken to kissing people and things other than her stuffed kitten. Maddi will now pucker up for dolls, parents and caregivers, her pet pumpkin, and even a large and, quite frankly, terrifying sea snail she saw on the television screen while we were watching “Blue Planet” while I vegetated and let vegetate during my legendary sinus infection last week. (Don’t worry, she doesn’t get to watch TV unless I am practically on my deathbed!)
And here, for your viewing pleasure, are some recent pics of our 17-and-a-half-month-old cutie: