Tuesday, May 29, 2012


This is the time of year that always brings a lot of emotions with it.

Friday was the 10th anniversary of my first date with David. I can't believe it's been a decade! It's funny how it can feel so recent but at the same time feel like he was always here.

Saturday was a big one- one year since Robbie has his g-tube removed. A full year of eating and drinking on his own. Tonight we came in the door from visiting my dad and he said "I'm hungry! I need a snack!" I think it's the first time he's ever said the words "I'm hungry." (Though he does tell me his "tummy is rumbly" on occasion.) Of course, his stoma (tube-site) is still leaking, so I'm expecting surgery in the coming weeks to have to sew it up. Can't say I'm loving that, but I really would like to truly leave these days behind.

On Thursday, Robbie will be 4. Honestly, I feel like I'm typing that wrong. FOUR years? I know it's cliche, but where does the time go? It seems like just yesterday we were in the NICU fighting for his life. Just today I was going through some videos and watched one of him in the NICU. It's still fresh in my mind. I can still tell you where I was sitting when I took the video, what I was feeling, what I was thinking. And here we are, 4 years later.

Of course, with that one comes the memories of the days leading up to his birth. The day I was admitted to the hospital, for example. That's today, the 29th. It feels surreal to know that 4 years ago at this time, I was laying in bed at home with the worst stomach ache of my life, but didn't yet know that stomach ache was about to change the course of that life so dramatically.

This year (so far) has been easier than some. It helps that we've been incredibly busy, so I can't focus on it too much. And it helps that Charlotte is here now. She re-opened some of those wounds, but healed a lot of them as well. And Robbie is doing amazingly well. That helps, too.

I know his teacher seems to think he's a pain in the ass, and you know, he IS 3, sometimes he is, but he's also an incredibly bright, adorable, funny, giggly little monster.

At 4, he knows all of his ABC's and the sounds they make and even some of the words they start. He knows his numbers up to 20 and some other numbers sporadically. He knows all of his colors, and he knows shapes even I have to stop and think about sometimes. (Trapezoid? Heptagon? Seriously?) He is absolutely fascinated by clocks. He tells me about every one he sees. When we go shopping, he has to stop at the clock section and touch them, spin the dials, read the numbers, and describe them. 

He is the same way about air conditioners lately. He can tell you the air conditioners blow cold air and heaters blow hot air. And he knows all about vents and air "preturns" and how the fans spin.

He'll tell you that his favorite breakfast is bacon, but his favorite food is chocolate. He loves trucks, especially if they are red. Pretty much anything that has wheels is pretty awesome, too, but if it's red, it's that much better. His grandma has a new car and he tells us all the time about "grandmas red new car!"

He adores his little sister. Today he walked in the room where she was and said "Baby Charlotte, you're so handsome!" And he hugs her and kisses her a hundred times a day. He gets told all day long to be gentle, but not because he's mean, but because his affections are sometimes a bit aggressive.

He loves to be tickled more than life itself and lately has taken to tickling me. When something makes him laugh, he says through is laughter "that's SO funny!" I guess to make sure I know.

My little boy who spent 2 years in physical therapy loves to jump to the point of exhaustion. He told me the other day he didn't want a birthday party (sorry kid, the invitations have gone out!) He just wants "a bouncing house and to find Olivia and Mason." (The children of one of my best friends in the world.) I'm not sure if Olivia and Mason are lost, but he definitely said we needed to find them.

At 4, he still isn't potty trained, but did pee in the real toilet for the first time tonight, so there is hope yet. His social skills aren't quite up to the same stage as his peers, but he likes kids. When he went back to daycare after Charlotte's quarantine, he said "YAY YAY! We're going to the kids' house!"

He's definitely not perfect, but I still think he's an amazing kid. I wish that I could have had a snapshot of today 4 years ago. If I could have just seen his smiling face, I would have known everything was going to be okay. Because it is. The emotions are strong, but as many scary, troubling memories as I have, I have 4 times as many happy, satisfying ones.

Robbie got his G-tube because of a diagnosis of failure-to-thrive, caused (at least in-part) by his prematurity. I wasn't sure we'd ever survive either of those. But we have. We are all thriving.


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Catching up

Where does the time go? I swear I just wrote a blog post yesterday but it's really been nearly 3 weeks. I feel very neglectful. I need to do a blog-a-day challenge or something. Though I think I'd need a list of topics so I don't sit staring at the white square all night.

Anyway, onto an actual topic.

Today sucked. Part of it was my own fault because I forgot to take my Paxil 2 days in a row. Bad, bad, bad idea. By this afternoon my head was spinning. Definitely not a drug to stop taking cold turkey. I always take it first thing in the morning and the last two mornings were very hectic and I forgot. I need to set a remind on my phone.

However, the rest of it was not really my fault. Charlotte is trying to kill me and Robbie...well.. Robbie's just 3.

Charlotte is now sitting up quite well. You can't just sit her down and wander off because if she gets too excited, she will topple, but for the most part, she's a sitter. At her 6 month check up last week (YES. SIX MONTHS.) her doctor said she was advanced in gross motor skills. Holy shit. That's a new experience. But because she is sitting well, she could no longer sleep in the rock-n-play. It's angled just enough that sometimes she can sit herself up in it. That's not safe. So, I've been transitioning her to the cosleeper. Yeah, that's not going so well.

She went from sleeping from 8am-10pm eating maybe 3-4 times total to going to be at 8 and then being up 6-8 times before 7. And most nights one of those times is up for HOURS. Last night she went to bed at 8 and slept until 11. I thought maybe we would have a good night. But then she was up at 11 until after 2am. And again at 5 and at 6 and up for the day at 7:30. I am one tired momma.

Then I had Robbie's parent teacher conference this morning. That was not fun, either. The short version is that Robbie is a pain the ass with delayed writing skills. It was seriously an hour about how stubborn and willful he is. At various points during the meeting, I had to assure her that 1) He does not have a hearing impairment 2) He is not having absence seizures 3) He does not have O.D.D. and 4) he does not have autism. Yes, he's been tested for most of those, and ODD (oppositional defiance disorder) is way out of line. Even she agreed that he doesn't disobey to be hateful. He just tunes out things he doesn't want to hear.

If you call him for dinner and he's playing and doesn't want to come, he will stare off into space like he doesn't hear you. You can go right up to him and talk and it's like he sees through you. You can wave your hand, snap your fingers and get nothing. I worried about absence seizures, too. But.. if you say a magic word, he's right with you. You say "want some chocolate?" and suddenly he can hear JUST FINE. He's just that stubborn and convincing.

Apparently he also doesn't like to participate in group activities. He prefers to play alone a lot of the times. If he's in the right mood, he will play with the others, but still tends to parallel play rather than play along with his classmates. He is also bossy. If she tells the class to quiet down, he turns around and starts yelling "Everyone needs to be quiet!"

He doesn't stay on tasks he doesn't like. He doesn't like to write, so she has to stay on him to spend time in the writing center. He can't really draw an R, so she's concerned about his fine motor skills. We talked about a few things to help with that. (scissors, play-doh, etc.)

The only good thing she had to say is that he is very smart. He knows all his letters, numbers, letter sounds, shapes, colors etc. Of course, that came with the caveat that he's starting to refuse to answer her questions when she asks him to prove that. (refusing to count, etc.) So even that wasn't ALL good. All in all, it was a crappy meeting. I got in the car and cried.

I declined her offer to have an OT evaluate him. I have no interest in starting therapy again. I really don't think he would qualify anyway, and even if he did, it would likely be a very short amount of time each week and not worth the trouble. And frankly, therapy sucked. Hell, I purposely didn't ask for a copy of today's meeting notes because I don't want to see it all in writing.

I think Robbie is amazing. Yes, he is stubborn. And sure, we see some of that at home. But he responds well to a time-out, and is overall a happy, energetic, intelligent, affectionate kid. He does great in one-on-one situations, or maybe one-on-two. He just doesn't do well in groups. I think he's an introvert. (Which I told her and she said "Hold on, I want to write that down." like it was some sort of amazing thing I came up.) It hurts when someone clearly doesn't like your kid very much.

So, I spent most of the afternoon moping and feeling sorry for both myself and Robbie. Of course, by the afternoon, I had worked myself out of sadness and into anger. I honestly think she's being too harsh. After speaking with some people with more experience in his age range and going through some developmental milestones, I think she was being overly critical. And it was unneccesssary.

I'm not sure how I plan to handle it. I don't want to be one of those parents who thinks their little angel can do no wrong. I KNOW she is right about some of it. He IS stubborn and obstinate. Sometimes I want to throttle him, too. But he's not mean. He doesn't hit, he doesn't bite, he doesn't scratch. He'll occasionally defend himself by pushing instead of using words, but it's not even like he just goes over to push someone for the pure joy of it. And he's well liked. One of the other teachers told me that the kids fight over who gets to play with him. When I brought that up she said "well, kids are forgiving." That was just mean.

He is only with this teacher for 2 hours a day, fortunately. But she's the only preschool teacher there, so if I want him to have preschool, it's with this teacher. Period.

I'm still mulling over my options. Feel free to weigh in.

The afternoon was okay but hectic. A little shopping with Charlotte and then getting Robbie from school.
He didn't nap today and decided to live up to his teacher's expectations and was terrible tonight. There were tears at dinner because apparently I gave him the wrong butter for his bread. I finally figured out (after taking him to the fridge and demanding he show me) that he wanted one of those Papa Johns dipping sauces. Which was fine, and he took but after about 2 bites, again insisted he had the wrong butter.

I ended up giving him a bath and putting him to bed early. He wasn't happy about it but we got through it. And then just before I put him down, the stoma (the hole in his stomach) exploded. I don't even know how else to say it. A ball of infection came out. It smells horrible and was just plain disgusting. Robbie insisted that nothing hurts. He has to fever or anything, so I don't know. But it's 2 days until it's been out for a year (!) and now this happens? That's not so good.

So of course, more things to worry about.

All in all, it was not Robbie's day. I don't really know what to think about the teacher situation. I don't want to be the parent that thinks the teacher is out to get him and my kid does not wrong. (Believe me, I know he can be a pain.) But I also felt like it was unneccessarily negative. Fortunately there's only a week of school left and then he's free for the summer with teacher who seem to enjoy him (or at least, they fake it a lot better.) But then there's preschool next year, too. Same teacher.

I don't know. My head is all jumbled and parenting is damned difficult.


Friday, May 4, 2012

They're just boobs.

This weekend, someone I met commented that when you have children, whatever age those children are, it's the most interesting age. I thought that was rather astute. I certainly tend to tune into news stories or blog posts about things involving children around 4 years old or around 5 months old. (Sometimes this is bad. I don't even want to get started on some of the news stories.) Tonight I was thinking that maybe this is why the breast vs bottle war continues among mothers. There are always women having babies and babies usually eat (you know, except Robbie...) so that's the most interesting thing in our lives just then.

Obviously my experiences with both kids has been dramatically different. There were similarities. Robbie's first time at the breast went surprisingly well, as did Charlotte's. Both of them hate(d) bottles. But in the long run, drastically different. Robbie hated food. He'd cry because he was hungry, eat 1/2 oz and then scream because he was in pain from eating. It didn't mater whether that was from the boob, the bottle or eventually a tube. Charlotte? Well, she loves to eat. She doesn't want any manufactured nipple, but she's never met a boobie she didn't like.
This monkey's nose looks like a nipple.
She keeps trying to eat it.

When Robbie was still eating by mouth, we were in quarantine, so we never really had to deal with people's comments in public. I don't know if anyone would have said anything about his bottles or not. By the time we were allowed to take him out, he was 100% tube-fed. Rarely did anything about it, but we definitely got some strange looks. I couldn't fault any one for it. It's not every day you see a toddler with a feeding bag attached to him. I didn't like the stares, but I understood them. We would occasionally get a question about the tube in his stomach- always by kids. I didn't mind that at all. They would ask what it was, I would explain as simply as I could and they'd either accept that and move on, or look confused, but still move on.

Pumping was another matter altogether. I went back to work for a few weeks while Robbie was still in the NICU. I wanted to save my leave time for when he came home. That meant having to pump at work. To say it was a pain is an understatement.

Firstly, my boss acted like I was asking for a corner office with a view when I needed a place to go. It didn't matter that there were 2 completely unused offices in our space at that time. I was told I had to submit a request for a job accommodation with our disability department to be allowed to pump at work. When I called to do just that, they had no idea what I was talking about. I spent a couple of weeks jockeying between HR and management to figure out who would officially give me permission to do something that I was legally allowed to do (it was protected by Illinois state law at that time.)
My boss repeatedly made comments about my "special" privilege and frequently passed along complaints from my coworkers. Apparently they felt it was unfair that I "got" to lug my hospital grade pump into a room and spend every second of my break time hooked up to a vacuum.

One day I replied to yet another email from my boss with a complaint from a coworker about my "special treatment" with a copy of the state law permitting me to pump at work. I also advised that if I had to make another call concerning the matter, it would be to a lawyer to uphold my rights. I was finally granted one of the empty offices to pump in.

But that didn't stop my coworkers. There was one who always seemed to need something from the office I was pumping in when I was in there. Nevermind that sign on the door, the blanket hung on the window, or the fact that the light was on in an unoccupied office. I'd think maybe she just really wanted to see my boobs, except that she was the same one who liked to make snide comments, too.

Once when I was walking out of the office with my bottles in hand, she stopped, sneered and said "that's ALL you got? That's not worth it." In my mind, I knew it was worth it. With all of Robbie's digestive issues, breast milk was the only thing he could even sort of tolerate. But outwardly, it really did hurt my feelings and I had to fight the urge to cry. Fortunately a coworker who pumped for her premature twins heard her and stepped in and assured me I was doing a good job.

The supportive comments came, too. They were always so appreciated. It's funny the difference a tone can make. "You're still pumping?" could mean "Wow, you're hard core! Good job!" or it could mean "You freak! I can't believe you're still doing that!"

Now that I'm nursing Charlotte, it's different but the same. You really will never please all of the people all of the time. Again, no one has said anything out-rightly rude to me, but there are plenty of strange looks.

Last month I needed to feed Charlotte while out shopping with my mother-in-law. We were at a Target that I wasn't familiar with so I just looked for the first place I could sit down. That was their snack area. I chose a corner table and turned towards the wall. I draped a blanket over me and fed Charlotte. I was the only person in the area at that time, but at one point I saw a worker come out from the back and look at me. She looked puzzled, mostly. Then she went to the back again. A minute later, she came back with another worker. Both of them stared at me for a long minute. They had a conversation, looking back and forth from each other to me. Neither looked very happy.

I was on the other side of the area and couldn't hear them. Maybe they were discussing what a treasure it was that I was nursing my baby. Maybe they were wishing I'd get the hell out of their area so they could go home. But it sure looked like they were saying "oh my gosh, look at that lady with the audacity to feed her child in public!" It was the first time I'd felt like I shouldn't be doing what I was doing.

There were lots of times when I got an uncomfortable reaction. People obviously avoiding eye contact with me, willing themselves not to notice what was happening. People exclaiming about leaving the room while I did that. It was usually said as though they were leaving for my benefit, though it never really bothered me.

I cover as much as possible. It's not as easy as it looks. Charlotte hates a blanket over her head and will tear it down in a second. It's difficult to keep the blanket out of her hands and the boob in her mouth at the same time, especially in public where I'm often balancing on a chair w/o arms or anything to rest Charlotte's body on. But I try. I almost always end up scolding Charlotte and holding a blanket with my teeth for at least a minute while I get situated.

At home, I usually ask my female guests if they mind, and if anyone does or we have male guests I cover or take her to my bedroom. It doesn't make me uncomfortable but I don't want other people to be so, either. I'm not looking to make a statement. I just want to feed my baby.

This last weekend, I actually had my first positive, public reaction. I was on a bench at the mall, covered, feeding Charlotte. The bench was perpendicular to the walkway, so I wasn't completely in everyone's sight, but I wasn't hidden either. Most people walked by completely oblivious. Two twenty-something boys at a table nearby seemed amused, but I couldn't tell you if they were amused by the feet sticking out of the blanket or that there was a boob just one layer of fabric away from being seen.

And then two women came around a corner and caught my eye. One of them smiled and nodded approvingly. Honestly, she may as well have hugged me. It shouldn't matter, really. I tell myself not to worry about what the naysayers think, so why should the opposite matter, either? But it did feel good. I don't know if she was nodding at the breastfeeding or just at a baby in general. But either way, I enjoyed it. Again, not trying to make a statement- I just want to feed my baby.

Of course, then there are moments that I wonder if I should be making a statement. One day when I picked Robbie up from school this week, the teacher who will be Charlotte's came over to coo at her a little. We were chatting a little and I mentioned that I was having trouble getting her to take a bottle. The teacher looked shocked. "Oh.. are you uh.. still..um.. " she patted her chest, "... feeding her.. from... there.."
I raised an eyebrow. "Yes, I'm nursing."
She said "oh, um, I can't say that word.. you know.. around the kids."
I said "You can say nursing. Nursing. Yes, I'm nursing her, still."
She said "oh yes, I can say that word. Just not the other word."

I was genuinely dumbfounded. I mean, first, yes, I'm still nursing at 5 months. It's not like she's 5 years old. Five months seems like a reasonable amount of time. And then.. she can't say breast? Really? That is what they are called, right? What if the children have chicken breasts for lunch one day. I was stunned that a grown, educated woman was so uncomfortable with the word breast.

I couldn't help but think of a day not long ago (I was pregnant with Charlotte at the time) when I was sitting on the floor putting Robbie's shoes on to take him home. One of his classmates came up to me, patted my chest and declared "These are your boobies!"  The teachers in the room froze, waiting for reaction. I couldn't help but chuckle inwardly. To the girl, I just shrugged and agreed. "Yep, they are. Go play, you." It's funny that a 3 year old is smarter than a grown up.

I guess what really gets me is that we spend so much time thinking about it. Everyone seems to have an opinion. And more importantly, everyone seems to think their opinion should be shared by everyone else. Breast is best! Formula is great! 

Yes, I have chosen to feed both of my children breast milk. Robbie got formula mixed with his (once we found one he could take.) I had hoped to combo-feed Charlotte, but Miss Picky Pants won't even take breast milk out of a bottle, so she's a boob girl. That's what worked for me and my circumstances.

Because this has worked for me, I sometimes have to feed my baby in public. And there are more opinions. Take that to the bathroom where it belongs! At least cover up! You can't infringe on my rights!

When I'm trying to feed Charlotte w/o flashing everyone, not because I am uncomfortable, but because I don't want to make others uncomfortable, I can't help but wonder why it matters. Why do people feel so strongly about this? What makes someone tell a woman to cover or leave? What makes someone tell a mother that they're feeding their baby poison in a bottle? What gives people the audacity to boss people around that way? I don't think I'll ever understand the rudeness.

I think we take an interest because we like babies. (Not all of us. I know!) And the majority of people have a baby at some point or another, which makes them interesting. It's familiar. I just wish we could all accept each other's feeding choices and support each other instead of trying to drag each other down. A smile goes a long way. Next time you see a mom feeding a baby- either by breast or by bottle, don't be a boob- offer some encouragement.