The first Noel

In the past week, James has had all kinds of milestones. Not only has he marked physical milestones such as making prolonged eye contact, lifting his head from a prone position and stopping crying when food is presented. He’s celebrated his first Christmas, worn his first 0-3 month outfit, met several relatives for the first time, and in a few hours he’ll be a month old. He’s also had his first cold, an unfortunate milestone, but luckily one that has not thus far developed into anything threatening.

Fearing the worst because of his tender gestational age (he’s still got nearly a week to go before his actual due date), I took him to the ER last Friday after his first symptoms appeared, and in to the pediatrician today for an emergency visit when his breathing worsened, but while his nose is stuffy, James’ chest is clear and he is feeding OK. Despite being sick most of the week, our son still managed to pack on 14 oz., putting him at 8 lb. 4 oz. this afternoon after emptying his bowels with great gusto on the exam table.

Despite his sniffles and sneezes, James was able to make the trip to Nana’s for Christmas dinner and presents — albeit shrouded in a blanket-covered carrier and with strict rules about who could hold him and how much sanitizer they had to apply first. He unwrapped (with much help from his parents and sister) quite a haul of nice baby things. Some, like the blankets, clothing and wrist rattles, he can enjoy now; other things, such as the Little People playsets addressed to both of our tots, he will share with Maddi later. All in all, our New Year’s baby did pretty well for a little guy who came on such short notice and hasn’t let Mommy out of the house in a month! (Thank goodness he has a daddy who knows how to shop!)

Since premie outfits are hard to come by, and even more so premie Christmas attire, Chris and Nana assembled an outfit last month in hopes that James would grow into it. When we first looked at it, we figured we’d be lucky if James fit the clothing by March. But lo and behold, when we tried it on James on Christmas Day, it was only a little roomy. Our little boy has been eating his Wheaties!

However wonderful it was to celebrate my darling baby’s very first holiday, I’m relieved it’s over. You see, between being a newborn and having a cold, James hasn’t been sleeping well at night and therefore, neither do I. I count on his “sleepy time” between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. and his and Maddi’s big nap between 1 and 3 to get a decent rest, and holiday fun doesn’t exactly fit into that schedule. Now that the hectic holiday frenzy has passed, I intend to sleep (as much as James and Maddi let me) for the next month or two.

And now for the very most important part of James’ blog: the pictures! Below are his Christmas Day photo (complete with his first-ever 0-3 month outfit!) and his four-week snap.

Heads up

When James was born, I was worried that he’d take a long time to catch up to where he would have been had he come on his due date. Apparently, these fears were ungrounded azithromycin 250mg. If anything, James has been doing better out than in.

This week, at his pediatrician visit, we learned that our little boy had gained a full pound in eight days, putting him at 7 lbs 6 oz. In utero, he’d be gaining only a half-pound per week. He’s doing so well, in fact, that his doctor decided James could visit every two weeks — even though initially he’d been expected to see the doctor weekly for the first month or even longer.

Because he had so little body fat initially, we waited until James was nearly three weeks old to give him his first bath so that he’d have time to add a little insulation. Monday night, as we bathed our boy, we noticed that not only does he have some brand-new thigh rolls, but he is the size of a normal newborn now. Every day, his premie clothes get smaller on him and his undershirts — which are the 0-3 month size — have gone from enveloping him to fitting perfectly.

One of the best things of all this week has been James’ newest (OK, maybe his only) skill — lifting his head a bit while he’s being burped. When he was born, our wee boy was completely floppy and it was hard to tell if he had any neck muscles at all. Now he can hold his head erect for a few seconds before it flops over. It’s not much, but we’re proud parents nonetheless!

James is spending more of his daytime hours awake and alert, and his cries, which were kittenlike a few weeks ago, are stronger now. He is sleeping more at night, although he goes through frequent cluster-feeding spells where he eats voraciously day and night, which we’re presuming is how he managed to gain a pound in the last week.

He still doesn’t do much other than eat, sleep and poop (eating and pooping more so than sleeping), and since he doesn’t have colic I’m not really sure what to do with him. It’s lovely having a baby who just lies there staring around at things and it sure makes caring for two kids a lot easier, but I feel like I ought to be teaching James tricks or something. It’s a bizarre feeling having two little ones and yet having so much downtime with them. I had geared up mentally for another three months of endless colic and misery, and James is so placid and easygoing that I feel kind of lost. What do other moms of normal newborns do?

Instead of rocking a screaming baby for hours on end, I can lay James down in his bassinet or the Pack ‘N’ Play and spend some quality time with Maddi, or I can snuggle my contented new baby against my shoulder and just be. It’s definitely taking some getting used to, but I certainly don’t mind getting used to it!

And here they are: Pictures of little James at three weeks old (or two weeks, six days, in the case of the bath pic). Look at those chins!

Sister Act

Ever since the day she was born, we’ve been planning for the day when Maddi became a sister. The minute I delivered our purple, coneheaded, colicky insomniac after nine intense hours of hard, fast back labor, I knew I would do it all over again, and soon. There is something about newborn babies — even screaming, inconsolable ones — that makes you want to have 10 more just like them. And so, there in the delivery room on May 6, 2005, it was determined that Maddi would have a younger sibling as soon as possible.

Of course, babies take time, and by the time her brother arrived, Maddi had had us almost entirely to herself for 18 months. Naturally, Chris and I were concerned that our pampered princess might see her baby sibling as an intruder rather than a future playmate. So a few months before the baby was due, we gave Maddi a baby doll and some miniature nursery accoutrements to get her used to the idea of infants in the house. Maddi spent many happy hours strolling her dolls around the living room, serving up meals of imaginary oatmeal (and meticulously “washing” the high chair tray in her big sister’s play kitchen afterward) and laying her babies down for naps. She almost always carried the babies head-up and was very tender with her tiny charges. Of course, the real test would be how she treated Mommy’s baby.

I am happy to report that Maddi has done spectacularly well thus far at adjusting to the new baby. Even the hospital stay was easier. She slept better for Chris and didn’t treat me like a stranger during hospital visits, although she still did (and does) seem to be under the impression that everybody has babies in their tummies, including a much-thinner Mommy.

Luckily for Maddi — not to mention for Chris and me — James spends a lot of the time sleeping, so we can devote sizable chunks of quality time to our little girl. Perhaps all the playing and cuddling has made Maddi blissfully unaware that some of our attention is now going to the wee interloper, because she hasn’t seemed to notice that she has a little competition in the quality-time department. In fact, when the baby’s cries ring out over the monitor, Maddi is the first to head for the doorway and down the hall, urgently pressing us with the refrain, “Baby? Baby?”

She also begs me to lower him for kisses at least 10 times an hour, and is always excited to help put him in his bassinet and bid him goodnight. She has helpfully offered him sippy cups and chicken tenders, as well as her favorite books and toys.

And while she’s definitely grown-up next to the tiny baby we brought home, she’s also getting bigger in ways we’d notice even if we weren’t looking at her compared with a newborn. In the past few months, she’s been bought and subsequently outgrown several pairs of pants. She’s regained all the words she lost in the language regression that happened after the move, and is adding new ones each day. She will now sit still long enough for ponytails and barrettes, and can both remove and put on her shoes lipitor medication. She’s inches away from being able to don her own pants and shirts, and has become proficient at stripping herself of all manner of clothing, including things that zip, button, or snap up the back and then are covered over with a layer of duct tape.

Maddi can also jump in the air, bellyflop, kick a ball, spin in circles, operate the Diaper Champ (albeit abusing the tool to dispose of pacifiers), clamber in and out of her high chair, and scale the arms of the sofa to drop, catlike, over the gate into the forbidden but enticing fireplace area. She also uses the potty when the inclination strikes her, and can apply her own lotion and hand sanitizer. Over the past few months, she’s been honing her skills with a spoon and fork, and now uses utensils like an old pro, often keeping her face entirely clean (if not her lap!).

She can point to nearly every part of her body — not just arms and legs, but wrists, elbows, knees and ankles too — and can mimic dozens of animals including tigers, snakes, seals and dolphins. After just a few singalongs at the library, she began doing all the motions (correctly!) to “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” and “Itsy Bitsy Spider.”

And to top it all off, a few days ago I was combing her hair and she snatched at the comb with a big scowl and snapped, “No! Mine!” Our little girl is, indeed, growing up!

How sweet it is

The past week and a half has been a blur. As with Maddi, the first two weeks have sometimes seemed like an eternity, what with the messed-up sleeping schedules and the hours of baby care, but it’s been a totally different experience. Rather than being shellshocked, we’re amazed how easy life with this new baby has been. I suppose it helps that James feeds for 20 minutes every two to four hours instead of for two hours at a time with 30-minute breaks in between, and that he doesn’t have hours-long stretches of inconsolable screaming, but it also helps that it’s our second time around with a brand-new baby and we’ve got things a little more figured out — except for that peeing thing. I have been “christened” far too many times already.

James has been gaining weight steadily, leaving the hospital at 5 lbs 8 oz and gaining nearly an ounce a day to achieve a weight of 5 lbs 10 oz by his one-week appointment last Tuesday. Today at his pediatrician appointment, we discovered little James has gained two ounces a day since the public health nurse weighed him in at 5 lbs 11.5 oz on Thursday, and he now weighs in at a staggering 6 lbs 6 oz — 10 oz. more than he weighed at birth. He’s doing so well that the pediatrician has decided that James is ready for regular office visits instead of hospital visits in the pediatric wing, and that James can make little outings to places where he won’t be in close contact with germy people.

Our mellow little man has adjusted well to life around the house as well as life outside the womb. He loves to be held and will sleep for hours in Mom’s arms, but he doesn’t mind lying around and watching the world from the Pack ‘N’ Play, either. He sleeps for much of the day, waking to eat, poop and cast the occasional glance at his surroundings. Maddi has adjusted nicely as well — she still thinks of James as a wonderful toy that Mommy and Daddy brought home especially for her. She often stops what she’s doing so she can run over and give James a kiss or try to entertain him by thrusting her sippy cups and favorite toys at his head (don’t worry, he’s well protected from these latter eager overtures!). When James is sleeping in his room and the monitor picks up one of his coos or grunts, Maddi is the first to yell “Baby!” and head toward his room to retrieve him.

This weekend, James began sleeping more at night and spending more time alert during the day. We backslid a bit last night, when he was up until 6 a.m. cluster feeding, but he also spent all day yesterday and today eating, so I suspect he’s gearing up for another massive growth spurt. At this point, Chris and I are beginning to think it’s a good thing James came out when he did — otherwise I might be giving birth to a 10-pounder!

As exhausting as it is taking care of a wee barracuda by night and an energetic toddler by day, I am blissfully happy being a mom to two. Between James’ snuggly laid-back sweetness and Maddi’s enthusiastic affections, I have ample baby-love available to me whenever I want it (although sometimes all I really want is sweet, elusive slumber!). Luckily, since there’s very little jealousy at this point, our days are very peaceful and while the nights are sometimes busy, I’m at least getting a few hours here and there, which is more than I can say for the first time around!

Call me crazy, but even with little sleep, two in diapers, and having just come off a scary, complicated pregnancy two weeks ago, I still feel like I could fill the house with newborns and not get enough of the baby sweetness! Of course we’re still planning to wait a good while before putting another bun in the oven, but the trepidation I felt after the placental abruption has been replaced with joy and the (premature and slightly delusional?) anticipation of our next little bundle.

It feels like James has been with us forever, and it’s hard to believe that if I was still pregnant, he’d be only 37 weeks along — just barely term — today. Good things may come to those who wait, but for having jumped the gun, I think we got a pretty good thing anyway! You can’t ask for much more than a happy, healthy baby who sleeps for two or three hours at a stretch!

And for those of you who have been pestering us for pictures, here’s one of me and the two babies on James’ two-week birthday:

Homecoming celebration

The big day finally arrived — the pediatrician cleared James for discharge first thing this morning. It was with great joy that I took that final hospital shower and at last donned the ONE outfit I’d packed in my labor bag on the assumption that we’d be in and out of the hospital in the span of a day or two. Chris, Nana and Maddi spent the morning readying the house and doing some last-minute baby shopping, and I snuggled with my dear little boy and downed my very last hospital meal.

After a stop by the nursery for a carseat check, we headed down and Chris brought the car around front and snapped the baby in next to Maddi for the first time. His curious sister kept lifting the quilt to sneak delighted peeks at her brand-new brother. I was sitting in back to referee any potential jealous outbursts, but the little ones were perfectly cordial to each other. Maddi tried to hold James’ hand, and James snuffled and gurgled his hellos.

Our first day home was much easier than I’d thought. James spends so much of his time sleeping that I managed to spend lots of quality time with his sister, and Maddi’s been so excited about the baby for so long that the only thing I had to worry about was her smothering him in kisses. While we were in the hospital, Chris scoured the local shops for preemie outfits and James came home to quite the wardrobe. Even the 3-5 pound clothes look big on him, but we’re sure he’ll grow into them soon enough with the way he’s been eating. His release weight was 5 lbs 8 oz, just 4 oz shy of his birth weight, and he’s been eating like a superstar.

To a person, we are delighted to have James home at last. Today was one of the happiest days of my life.

The wireless age

Overnight, James outdid himself with a 50 cc feed and a 43 cc feed, among his usual 30-something feeds. After a few days with very little poop, James has finally passed all his meconium and produced at least two diapersful of seedy, mustard-hued poop today. This morning after breakfast, the pediatrician released our little man to combined care, which means that his monitors are off now and he will be rooming in with me and having his vitals checked every few hours. If he does well, there is a possibility we will be bringing him home tomorrow.

Even though it would be a relatively short hospital stay, it already seems we’ve been here forever. Only one of James’ original nurserymates is still here, and he was a micropreemie who had just recently been transferred back to Kelowna from a larger hospital on the coast when James was born. All the other newborns — even the C-sections and jaundice babies — have been born, treated and sent home. As of yesterday, James was the only baby in an incubator or hooked up to an IV and monitors. After three nights of waking every three hours to walk down the hall and dig through meters of wire and tubing to feed him, it’s pure joy having my little son in my room like a normal newborn. I spent the better part of the afternoon holding him and staring into his sweet little face as he napped contentedly next to my heart.

Of course, now there’s the issue of knowing when to feed him. I’m terrified that I won’t hear him in the night and will sleep right through his quiet squeaks and snuffles.James hardly ever gets worked up, which would be great if he was a term baby — but his laid-back temperament doesn’t work so well for a preemie. When we get home, I’ll be setting an alarm clock to go off throughout the night and wake me for his feeds, but I didn’t think of an alarm clock for my labor bag, and in my four-person hospital room, there are so many noises that I’m afraid my placid little James will get lost in the shuffle.

Even if I wasn’t worried about missing his hunger cues, I wouldn’t be resting easy tonight. I’m far to excited about the prospect of bringing our little boy home and being a family again. I miss Chris and Maddi and while I’m enjoying this rare chance to devote every ounce of my attention to James, I’m eager to spend more than a half-hour a day with my other baby. Tonight, Chris and Maddi stopped by and my little girl’s face lit up when she spied her new brother in my hospital room. I can’t wait to bring my bundle home and enjoy being together as a family.