Posts Tagged ‘ NICU/Prematurity issues ’

Back From Baltimore

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

Caroline and I accompanied Tyler on a work trip to Baltimore this past week, but we’re back now! I’ll update shortly with the rest of the answers to my Q&A;, but until then, here’s a post I guest-wrote for Kari’s blog, The Baby Standard, on what to expect if your baby is admitted to the NICU.

Sorry for the slowdown in posts, but I promise that a lot of cute pictures are coming from our week away!

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Ask, and You Shall Receive

Sunday, August 23rd, 2009

Well, my dear readers, here are my answers to your questions! Thanks so much for your interest in how our little family is doing.

A lot of people wanted to know what the dealio is with dental school. (God, I hate when people say “dealio”. Count your blessings, though, I could have said “dizzle”.) I am most definitely going back. I plan to start auditing some classes this fall– hopefully over the internet and not in person, so that I can still care for Caroline until I start back up in clinic. I will start officially in early January, right where I left off when I took my leave of absence due to preterm contractions. So, I will graduate with the class of 2011 rather than the class of 2010. The idea of being a year “behind” honestly doesn’t bother me anymore. It did at first, when I was still pregnant, but now that I have Caroline? Doesn’t even register on the scale of Stuff That Bugs Me. Having and raising her is a far bigger accomplishment than my DMD will be. And yes, that sappy statement would have totally made me gag before I had her, but I didn’t even blink typing it just now.

While I was pregnant, one of my biggest worries was that having a baby would make me not want to be a dentist anymore, because I suspected that parenthood would change my priorities. And while the idea of sending her to daycare and missing out on her smiles does get me all choked up, I really and truly do still want to finish dental school and go to work afterwards. I will always treasure this year that I was given to spend with her, but I want to be able to provide things for her that I could never give her as a stay-at-home mom– international travel, private schooling if she needs it, any kind of lessons or activities she wants, a paid-for college education. Besides, I’ve racked up so much student loan debt and worked so hard towards this goal that it just wouldn’t be practical or desirable for me to stay at home. I can definitely see why some moms choose to stay home with their babies, because that is just as a precious of a gift in its own way. I just don’t think that it’s the right choice for me, personally, to be one of them.

Others wanted to know how my relationship with Tyler has changed. I had to think long and hard about this one. It was definitely difficult during my pregnancy. It took him a long time to get excited about it… at times, I wondered whether he ever would. But once Caroline arrived, and especially while she was in the NICU, he was my rock. He loves that little girl so much. One of the best part of becoming parents, I think, is watching each other be parents. I have never felt so in love with him as I have watching him sing to Caroline, or tickle her, or rock her when she cries.

But, I don’t know that I can really say our relationship is any weaker or stronger now that she is here. Life changes 2000% when you have a child, but we are still who we are, and we love each other in the same way. I hope that doesn’t seem like a cop-out answer, because I don’t know how else to articulate it. Our day-to-day life and priorities have changed completely, but we still lean on each other and laugh together just exactly like we always did. All the external things are different, but internally, our relationship is still fundamentally the same, know what I mean? We always wanted to have children someday, so I guess the fact that Caroline came much sooner than we planned didn’t cause any long-term problems between us. We both accepted my pregnancy in our own time, and now she’s here, and it’s hard to remember what it was like when it was just the two of us, because we are so happy as three. Aside from her prematurity and reflux, she has been an incredibly easy baby, so I’m sure that has played a big part in our relatively smooth adjustment to parenthood.

Do we still have moments where we long for our old life, or feel that we weren’t quite ready for all this responsibility? Do we occasionally wish that we’d had more time as just the two of us before we’d added to our family? Sure we do. Maybe I’m not supposed to admit that out loud. But in any case, those moments are few and far between, because now that we have Caroline, imagining a life where she had never existed is unthinkable. And it might help that we both feel that way and don’t feel uncomfortable telling each other so. There are no misunderstandings or hard feelings there– we were thrown into this together, and we are both doing the best we can.

I’m not saying we haven’t had some hard times. Having a baby can be difficult on the best of marriages, and I sometimes resented the fact that my life was completely turned upside down as far as my career goes, while Tyler’s went on relatively undisturbed. It was tough to adjust to suddenly going from the whirlwind of clinic to the quiet of our apartment, and then the isolation of new motherhood. And sometimes I’ve probably taken it out on him, and he has been impatient with my resistance to the change, but he’s taken it in stride and done his best to help me out, and in the end, I see in him the wonderful father that I knew he would be.

If there is anything that has made our relationship stronger, I would say it hasn’t been parenting itself, but rather the NICU experience. We were handed a huge challenge right off the bat, and we really had to support each other just so that we could get through it. Tyler was strong and comforted me while I struggled for days, and then the night she was transferred, he reached his breaking point and it was my turn to step up for him. We made it through together, because of each other. Any parent who has had a child hospitalized will tell you that there is a lot of potential for misunderstandings and hurt feelings and disagreements, but we managed to get by without a single problem between us. Those two weeks probably strengthened us more than eight months of pregnancy and the past seven months of parenting ever could.

As for our future plans, I will be done with dental school in June of 2011, and Tyler will be done with his PhD in June of 2012. I will probably do a one-year residency in general dentistry somewhere near New Haven, where he is in school, and then we will go wherever his career takes us after he graduates. It’s looking like Denver is the most promising prospect for him to get a post-doc and then a job, but since it’s a few years away we are not entirely sure yet. He is pretty famous in his field (you may have seen him before on his National Geographic special!), so he shouldn’t have trouble finding work– several institutions have already contacted him about possibilities for the future. And of course, I can be a dentist anywhere, so I have always planned to follow him wherever he chooses to go.

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Diagnosis

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

I debated about whether or not I should blog about this, because I know that some people I know in real life read my blog. But I guess I’ve blogged about every other aspect of my pregnancy/motherhood, and what I’m about to say really isn’t anything to be ashamed of, so, here goes.

I’ve been feeling really crappy lately. I’m not sure when it started. I was feeling okay for awhile, or maybe I was just too busy and worried about Caroline to notice. I also kind of assumed that it was just a situational thing, because I had to make such a big adjustment in moving from school to staying at home, and all the other changes having a baby brings to your life. And, you know, it’s pretty isolating to stay at home with a baby when all of your friends are either far away or in an intense dental program… and none of them are even thinking about having babies of their own.

It wasn’t just that, though… ever since we brought Caroline home from the NICU, I’ve been having nightmares. Horrible dreams that she’s dead in the bed with me. I wake up several times a night from the same dream, digging frantically in the blankets for her because I’m convinced that she’s in there. And I think about the NICU and the midnight transfer in the ambulance all the time. I still cry about it every day. It was a traumatic experience, for sure, but still feeling like this just doesn’t seem normal to me. I was hoping that all this would go away with time, but it just… hasn’t.

So, I was going to my OB today anyway because I was having an issue with my IUD. I brought up my concerns with the nurse practitioner and she left the room for a long time. When she came back, she told me that the OB on call wanted me to go to a psychiatrist across the street, and that they could see me immediately. I went over there, feeling kind of like I had done something wrong and lost my recess.

I talked to the psychiatrist for a long time, over an hour. When she was done asking me questions (questions that included things like “can you tell me today’s date” and “what do apples and oranges have in common”… ummm… I’m not that far gone, lady), she put her clipboard down and said:

“I think you have moderate to severe postpartum depression. You went through a very traumatic experience, what with having your new baby in the hospital in uncertain condition, right in the middle of a mess of postpartum hormones and physical pain. You’ve had to continue struggling with her health and weight gain, and to give up breastfeeding for a much more mechanical, demanding way of feeding her. You’re continuing to torture yourself with all this pumping in order to try to live up to this unattainable ideal that our society has of the perfect mother, who gives her baby breastmilk, no matter what. You had to suddenly leave your program and all its activity and human interaction to stay at home with your baby, with no friends who understand what your new life is like. On top of it all, your pregnancy was unexpected, you say you were an anxious person to begin with, and depression runs in your family. How could you not be depressed?”

Well. I have to say, she heard me. It felt like a huge weight was lifted, that somebody understood me. I’ve sort of brought it up with Tyler and my mom, but Tyler just said “she’s healthy now, why is it still bothering you?” and my mom just gave me a look that I couldn’t quite read. So, it was such a relief just to have someone tell me that it was okay to feel sad. In general, I try not to think about any of that, because I don’t have time for self-pity and it doesn’t do anything for me anyway. But clearly ignoring it isn’t helping, so I have to try something else.

She suggested that I start two medications, check in with her over the phone while we’re in ND, start counseling once we get back, and quit pumping. I told her I was fine with all of that except the pumping, and that I just can’t quite do that yet, I’d feel too guilty. She went over to her desk, handed me a picture of a really pretty girl about my age, and said “this is my baby. I had to quit breastfeeding her after one month. And you know what? She’s fine. She’s great. How you feed your baby is just one tiny part of being a good mother. You’ve done everything you can for four months… do what’s best for you, but also know that maybe it’s time to give it up in order to focus on all the other very important pieces of the puzzle.”

So, that might be happening in the near future, I haven’t decided yet. All in all, I’m so glad that I said something to the nurse at the OB. Maybe the medication will help me feel more like myself. All I can do is try it, right? So… wish me luck!

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UGH!! x 10000

Friday, May 15th, 2009

Caroline went for a weight check yesterday, which revealed that she only gained 5 oz in the past month. UGH. That puts her somewhere awfully far below her growth curve. I literally felt sick when I saw the scale. Her pediatrician was concerned about this, to which I say, hello?!? Did I not tell you that there was a problem like a month ago??

He asked me to switch to pumping so that I can add cereal to her bottles to thicken them (so that they’ll stay down better), and to start waking her every 3-4 hours at night to feed her. UGH. She usually sleeps at least 10 hours straight at night.

He sent us to the hospital to get bloodwork done, which thankfully turned out mostly normal. He also called the GI specialist to get us in right away, and warned me that they might ask me to wean her completely to put her on a very expensive hypoallergenic formula (UGH). He suspected that there might be something wrong in addition to her reflux (UGH UGH UGH).

Honestly, hearing him say “wean her completely” was like a punch to the gut. I hadn’t realized how attached I’d gotten to nursing her, now that it’s become so easy for us. (In fact, I cried in front of him after he said it. UGH.) The feeling reminded me vaguely of her birth day, when I went to the NICU and the nurses told me I couldn’t hold her.

So today we visited the GI, after many frustrating hours of trying to pump enough to feed her while she howled in her bouncy seat, and trying to bottlefeed her while she swatted the bottle aside and lunged at my boob for a mouthful of shirt. The doctor and nutritionist thought it was just severe reflux, but recommended we put formula powder and cereal in my breastmilk to increase its caloric value and keep waking her to feed, at least until she reaches a more normal weight.

Side note: by “we”, I mean “me”, because Tyler is gone yet again on a dinosaur job. He always happens to be gone when Caroline’s reflux blows up in my face. Sigh. I don’t know which one of them is planning this. Maybe they are conspiring against me.

Anyway. I am relieved that nothing other than the reflux is probably wrong. But I am sad about two things:

  1. Losing my full night of sleep. I’m worried that even once she gets up to a good weight, she will still want to wake several times a night to eat.
  2. I will definitely have to supplement with formula, because there’s no way I can pump enough for her to eat 4 oz every 3 hours around the clock.

I know that’s whiny. I know I have to do what’s best for her. But her reflux is so difficult to deal with all day alone that I need the sleep at night. And I worked so hard to exclusively breastfeed. It’s so hard to do that for a NICU baby who was unable to nurse and had tons of bottles right after birth. I beat myself into the ground for over six weeks to be able to do that for her. And after all that, she still isn’t growing, so I’m not allowed to do that anymore. I know that supplementing is going to damage my supply, probably to the point where I won’t ever be able to exclusively breastfeed her again.

And, I just don’t want to give her formula. I hope that’s not offensive to those who formula-feed. But I made that decision early on and stuck to it through a whole lot of obstacles, and I really believe in the benefits of breastfeeding, especially for a preemie who is disadvantaged from the start. I was so excited the night I finally pumped enough to replace all of her formula that I went back to bed after feeding her and couldn’t sleep.

So, life isn’t fair. We all know that. I don’t want to give her formula, but then again I didn’t want her to be born prematurely, and I didn’t want her to spend weeks in the NICU, and if you want to be really technical and cruel about it, I didn’t initially want to have a baby at all. Things just happen and it’s not always fair, and you just have to get over the parts you don’t like as best you can.

So that’s the latest. If anyone has tips on how to increase milk supply aside from the obvious fenugreek, lots of water, and frequent pumping, please post in comments below.

UGH.

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It’s My Due Date

Thursday, March 5th, 2009

And Caroline is one month old today! It seems like such a long time ago that I had never met her.

It’s weird to me that today is March 5. How many millions of times did I say that date in response to “when are you due??” over the past nine months? I know that only 5% of babies actually come on their due dates, but still– today is the day I was “supposed” to meet her. Even though her NICU stay was definitely the most traumatic and upsetting experience of my life, I still feel lucky that I got to spend this extra, bonus time with her. I’ll always feel jealous of those women who make it to their due dates and who get to take their babies home with them, but I’m sure that missing out on that miserable last month of pregnancy isn’t entirely a bad thing either. And I know I certainly will never take her good health for granted!

Caroline decided to celebrate her due date by sleeping a wonderful, consecutive 5 1/2 hours last night. I suspect this had more to do with her new reflux medication (which actually works) than her desire to party it up, but regardless, it was amazing. I feel refreshed today even though I woke up probably every hour, on the hour to make sure she was still breathing. I wondered why she was nursing about every hour yesterday– she was saving it up to let us get some sleep at night! What a good little baby…

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