survivingmyboyz

tales from a stay-at-home mom of four boys

Why does it still hurt?

Today I needed to get a foot X-ray from a three month old injure. My doctor sent me to a local hospital which I’d had the pleasure of visiting the ER of three times  in a four month period over a year and a half ago. This is the life of a mom with many small boys; my own visit was also due to injury caused by those boys. I’d  never seen outside of the ER before even though this was the hospital I was originally suppose to deliver my fourth son at a little more than a year ago. When I walked into the hospital in search of the imagining department my first reaction was, “this is a really nice hospital.” Within seconds, however, I was hit by a bigger, tougher reaction, as I choked back tears and a sick, sinking feeling.

This hospital  really wasn’t similar to the hospital I gave birth in almost 14 months ago, with the exception that it was pleasant looking, had a cafe on the first floor, and a little outdoor sitting area. Despite this, I was immediately transported back to my days visiting the NICU last year. I was completely surprised by these feeling because this wasn’t one of the hospitals that I’d spent time in with my youngest. Still these memories were triggered. The feelings subsided a little during my X-ray, but they came back strong again as I attempted to quickly peruse the cute gift shop that really resembled more of a store at the mall than at a hospital. This time I was overcome by memories of our stay at the Children’s Hospital over last summer and the gift shop there. I wasn’t able to hold back tears and felt suddenly nauseous, so I bolted for my car.

When I got to my car I began to cry. I couldn’t help it. I knew it was stupid, my baby was healthy and fine and with my neighbor, but my emotional self seemed oblivious to this fact. So I just allowed myself to cry, figuring that I must have needed it. After a few minutes I stopped, but I was then overwhelmed by a need to see and hold my baby. So as soon as I was able to compose myself, I raced home to see him.

It seems crazy that something that seemed so unrelated triggered feelings I thought I was getting beyond, yet it happened. It makes me wonder if I’ll ever be able to walk into a hospital again without falling a part. I know it hasn’t even been a year since we finished our hospital stays, but my littlest guy is doing so well, so why aren’t I? 

Patience is a virtue, but not the norm

Dear Woman waiting for my parking space at Target,

I’m sorry, I didn’t immediately see you there. I was busy loading my multiple bags and children into my car. You seemed to be annoyed that it was taking me so long to vacate my space for you. I get that I’d snagged myself a sweet spot which you wanted. Infact, only two other spots were sweeter than mine and both were currently occupied by cars that didn’t appear to be leaving anytime too soon.  Well, I hate to break it to you, but mine wasn’t either, or at least not as quickly as you’d have  liked me too.

The thing is, I have several small children who need to be buckled in, bags to load, and a carriage to return, these things take time (as does everything with small children). I noticed though that you don’t have any children in your car, so you are able to hop in and out quickly (your shopping trip probably takes a fraction of the time mine does too).  Based upon the impatient looks you were giving me, I would guess that you were in a hurry, so it surprises me that you were choosing to wait for my spot. After all, the lots was half empty and you must have passed at least ten spots before getting to mine. You didn’t  appear to be old, nor did I see a handicapped sticker (otherwise you would have been parking in an even sweeter spot than mine), so I’m guess you probably don’t have a problem walking that would necessated that you wait for a spot up front. Since it was clearly taking me longer than you would have liked and there were so many other open spots just a little further away, I found it curious that  you would continue to wait angerly on my annoyingly large family. Oh sure, I get that the other spots would  require you to walk a few extra steps, but maybe you should ask yourself if avoiding a small exertion of energy is worth the annoyance of waiting for my spot. I guess that, after several minutes of waiting, you finally decided that it wasn’t, since you seemed to find yourself another spot not that much further from mine. Good for you for choosing a small amount of walking over the agony of waiting! From the dirty look you gave me as you walked by while I finally buckled myself in, I’m guessing you were still a little perturbed with me for forcing you to make that decision.

Oh the plight of the privileged and impatient! I’m sure the hungry, homeless, and destitute feel bad  for you and your huge burden of being forced to decide between getting a small amount of exercise or having to wait. I’d have said a small prayer for you that there was no line at Starbucks inside, but I didn’t want another person to have to make the tough choice you just had to make.

Sincerely, 

Someone who has no fucks to give about your first world problems

Even ninjas need to sit at the table for dinner

Dinner last night:

“No more practicing stealth ninja moves at the dinner table!”

Happy first birthday: letting go of the NICU

It is St. Patrick’s day and I am sitting here, listening to Celtic lullabies, holding my littlest guy, decked out in his St. Patty’s day onesie, rocking him to sleep, and I am reminded of where I was a year ago today. One year ago, I was sitting in the NICU, holding my littlest guy, kangaroo-care style, and rocking his tiny body, too small for clothes, only a hat with a shamrock sticker on it to show it was St. Patrick’s day. Tonight I am rocking my littlest guy for the thousandth time, but a year ago, I rocked him for one of the first times, after waiting several days to finally be able to hold him.

Less than two weeks ago we celebrated a big milestone for my littlest guy, his first birthday. I was prepared for it to be a bittersweet day, a day of mixed emotions, but it wasn’t. The past week and a half since then has been the emotional part for me.

We had just a small celebration with our three other kids and my parents, which seemed fitting since they were the ones who were really there for us through last year’s ordeal and the ones that really sacrificed for my growing family. My wonderful mother was a Godsend when everything happened so I was glad that she decided to come out to celebrate our accomplishment of making it through that first year. There was no party and very little pomp and circumstance that day. I made a homemade vanilla cake with blueberry filling and blueberry butter cream frosting. I was obsessive about making it as perfect as I could and poured a lot of attention into the cake making processes. It is only now that I realize this obesession with the cake was a way of keeping my mind off where we were a year earlier. I felt like it was some how vital that his cake be perfect, even though he wouldn’t know otherwise, nor would he remember it later in life. He received a few gifts that day, but the main event of the day was a return to the NICU with gifts. I was insistent that it be done on his birthday because I felt the need for some sort of closure. I brought  one and a half dozen cupcakes, the same flavor as his cake, for all the NICU nurses working the different shifts that day. I had also organized and assembled,  with the help of one of my moms groups, care baskets for the parents in the NICU. During my small amount of spare time, during the months leading up to his birthday, I crocheted a dozen Easter bunny hats, like the one I’d made my littlest guy while he was in the NICU.  On his birthday, I delivered all these things back to the place where he had spent the first 77 days of his life. I thought for sure that I’d break down upon entering the NICU again, but it didn’t happen. I got a little teary eyed, especially when I saw one of his first nurses, who cared for him the most during his stay there. Other than that, I didn’t feel the need to escape quickly before I was overcome by emotion. In fact, I didn’t really feel that way at all that day. The days after his birthday, however, were another story.

People talk about having PTSD after time in the NICU and it is very much real. I know I never totally dealt with all of what was going on at the time and instead I pushed things down inside or tried  to brush them off because I didn’t have the time or strength to deal with them. I kind of assumed that it had all gone away with time, but that wasn’t  the case. A lot of these emotions and thoughts are starting to resurface now that we have made it through the first year. My husband keeps telling me not to be sad because our baby is healthy now, but it isn’t about that. I’ve found myself in a not too wonderful place mentally and emotionally the last few days. Some of this is partially due to how other people in my life dealt with (or didn’t deal with) this important milestone in my son’s life, but part of it is just the experience itself and the finality of the fact that this is my last baby and I didnt even carry him to term, hold him when he was born, or get to take him home and enjoy him until he was several months old, and even then there were still several more months of problems before I could let go and just be a a regular mom. On a recent trip to Target, I found myself close to tears while browsing the baby clothes aisle when I came across a pair of tiny little mittens that were identical to the ones they attempted to keep on my son while he was in the NICU. I started to think about him in the NICU with those tiny mittens that were still too big for his even tinier hands, then I began to think of how we will never again own tiny mittens like those because he is our last baby.  I’m sad because I feel like I want to have more babies, but not really, I  just want my time with him back to do again, but this time to do the way I had envisioned it. 

I want a chance to finish my pregnancy, know it is time to deliver him, and for both of us to be ready to meet on the outside world. I want a chance to hold my baby in those first hours, breathe in his wonderful baby smell, and rest with him in my arms after such a big day. I want to chance to buy those outfits that say “baby’s first” St. Patrick’s Day and Easter that I never got to because he was too small to wear them and because he really should have been celebrating these holidays for the first time right now. I want the chance to be a new mom who celebrates and shows off her new baby instead of one who hides away in the sterol world of the NICU, afraid to be happy because my baby might not come home.  I want to let go of and not know the anger I feel over people in my life not understanding or caring about the heaviness that comes with having a baby in the NICU or how monumental that first birthday is after surviving such a year. But most of all, I want to finally come to terms with and feel peace with how my last son came into this world and what he went through during his first year of life, because like my husband constantly reminds me, he is healthy now and that is what is important.

Despite  all these emotions and all the difficulties of my son’s first year, I know that I really wouldn’t change  it. My littlest guy’s first year made my family stronger, more appreciative, and showed us who really loved us enough to be there for us. His first year made my littlest guy stronger too and gave us a glimpse of who he is; a determined, stubborn, fighter, who is small but mighty. I guess that means that I just need to except these mixed emotions, allow myself to feel them, and move past them. Our experience in the NICU will always be a part of us, but it shouldn’t continue to hurt us. I am sure by the time we reach this time next year, our time in the NICU will feel like a life time ago, as I watch my littlest guy run around with his brothers, laughing and yelling, the picture of a healthy two year old.

A return to the NICU

The other day I decided to bring cookies to the nurses working in labor and delivery and the NICU for Valentines day. I hadn’t initially planned to do this and wasn’t expecting to go back there until next month when I plan to drop off a service project to celebrate my son’s first birthday. Still, I figured it wouldn’t be a big deal, the NICU is a secure ward, so I’d just call call in, someone would come to the door to get the cookies, and I’d leave; no big deal. I was wrong. It was a little bigger of a deal than I had planned on and prepared for.

I’d been back to the hospital exactly once since my son let the NICU and it took a lot of mental preparation to go that once. He was six months and healthy by then, just awaiting a second look to confirm there was no regrowth of his cyst. Driving into the parking garage made me feel claustrophobic, but other than the parking garage, I didn’t go into any other part of the hospital that was connected with memories. It wasn’t long after that that I stopped feeling tense anytime I drove in the direction of the hospital. I still got occasional pangs of painful memories if a certain song came on the radio and the weather was just so as I drove near the hospital, but other than that, I was pretty ok. Yesterday, however, I made an actual return to the second floor and the place where my son spent the first 77 days of his life.

When I called into the NICU, I really didn’t expect for them to buzz me back, but they did. The second those double doors swung open with a whoosh, that sickening-sweet sterol smell hit me, and I felt like I was floating in a dream. The first thing I caught sight of was my son’s original room, which now was occupied by some other little boy, with his name plate displayed on the door. I resanitized my hands upon entering and proceeded around the corner to the nurses’ station. One of the nurses who was usually at the desk was sitting there and immediately recognized me. I presented them with the cookies and focused on my task at hand. When I was done, the nurse who remembered me asked about my littlest guy. I began to tell her how great he was, but the familiar sights, sounds, and smells of the NICU, coupled with discussing my baby became too much for me. My eyes began to fill with tears and I had to quickly take leave, explaining that it was just too much to be there, but promised to come back with pictures next mother. I walked so quickly to the door that I forgot to hit the security button to let me out and I got stuck as the door made a little sound. I apologized, joking that I was out of practice, and made my quick escape. The tears came as I entered the stairwell. I was desperate to exit the building and get back to the car where my baby was. All I wanted to do was pull my baby from his car seat and kiss and hug him, thankful that he was no longer living on that second floor behind those secure double doors. Unfortunately, when I returned to the car, my littlest guy was sleeping so soundly in his seat, I didn’t dare touch him and wake him, so I had to settle for a quick glimpse of him before jumping in the car and heading out. It took me a few minutes to recover and I even began to tear up again as I told my husband about the experience.

This spur of the moment trip was too much for me right now, but I’m hope to be better prepared in a few weeks when I return for the one year anniversary of my son’s arrival and stay at the NICU. I’m not really sure how I will mentally prepare for this visit or how I will even deal with what would normally be a happy time for most families. It feels so bitter sweet to celebrate his first birthday next month. I’m so thankful for my son and the fact that he is now healthy, but I fear there are still a lot of emotions I never truly let myself feel and this might be the opportunity they take to escape. I’ve already felt great hesitation and sorrow at the idea of the anniversary of my two week bed rest approaching, so I know those feeling are beginning to stir inside me. I’m just hoping I can feel more joy rather than guilt and sadness on my son’s first birthday. I will just have to try to continue to focus on the present and future and my son’s beautiful smile to get me beyond the past and all we went through.

Just a typical morning of fights, chaos, and vermin

This morning was one of those not so typical mornings that seems to be typical in a household with four kids. It was filled with the chaos of wrangling four children, the fights to get them ready and out the door, and of course, the less typical, vermin.
Our morning started off far too early in the purple darkness of a winter morning creeping closer to spring. The sun no longer waits until we are almost out the door to come up, but it is still kind enough not to rise and wake our children during a time that should still be night (I.e. Anytime before 5am). No one had slept well, as usual, especially myself who was up at two separate intervals with a fussy, gassy, teething baby for more than an hour each time. I was also lucky enough to have enjoyed the double whammy of a toddler in my bed who has a habit of waking up screaming for water several times a night. My memory is foggy, but I’m pretty sure it was my seven year old who woke us, as he does most mornings, by loudly and clumsily stumbling into my room in search of an iPad. The toddler was now awake, so I sent him to wake is dad who was asleep where the toddler should have been, in bed with the five year old. Instead of my husband, a three year old and five year old came back into my room. I got up and woke my husband from his few minutes of restful slumber after a night of listening to the five year old cough in bed next to him. The baby hand off took place and everyone’s day began except for mine as I crawled back into bed for a few minutes of sleep without two children clinging to me.
The next thing I knew, I was being awoken by my seven year old crying that he was hungry as if he’d never been served breakfast.
It is entirely possible that in my husband’s exhausted state he had forgotten to give my son a proper breakfast before school, but that wasn’t the case. Apparently my son had eaten a breakfast sandwich, finished it, played games and the iPad for a bit, and the second my husband told him to go upstairs to brush his teeth, my 7 year old complained that he was still hungry. My husband asked what my son wanted to eat, to which he asked “what do we have?” My husband listed off about ten different things he could eat, but my son seemed uninterested in any and just processed to whine the two alternating phrases of “I’m hungry! ” and “what do we have?” This seems to have become a common place occurrence these days since my 7 year old seems absolutely uninterested in any food offered to him, even his usual favorites, but insists he is hungry (someone please tell me that they have had this problem before and have a solution for me). Eventually my husband had enough and marched my son out the door but couldn’t get him to walk to the bus stop. This is when the real chaos of a typical morning ensues as we race against the clock to get everyone to their separate prospective schools on time ( three different buildings, two different locations, all starting at 9:00am).
My oldest clearly wasn’t going to make the bus this morning, so I brought him back inside, fed him and myself some oatmeal, gave the baby a quick snack then marched everyone upstairs to finish dressing and brush teeth as my husband finished getting ready for work. A plan was hatched, between fights with each child to get upstairs and brush, that I was to take the baby and drop my oldest at school while my husband took the middle two to their school. We needed to be quick so everyone could get to school on time and my husband and I could make it to our appointments on time. The middle two went downstairs (one dragged in my husband’s arms) to get shoes and go off to school. As I finished dressing, I could hear small voices outside long after my husband should have left. I assumed it was the neighbor kids, but found I was wrong when I finally got my youngest, oldest, and myself downstairs at two minutes until 9:00. My middle two were both standing outside my husband’s car as my husband rummages through his it. “What’s going on? Why haven’t you left yet?!” I asked. The response, “there’s a mouse in Dad’s car!” This is the point where our typical morning chaos turns into not so typical chaos. My husband was in the midst of moving offices and had some of his office stuff in his car and apparently a mouse had crawled in with his stuff and taken a ride home with him last night. The mouse made himself at home over the course of the night, chewing up papers and pooping in the cup holders. My husband gave up searching for the mouse and left to take the kids to school. I told the kids to be sure to tell their teachers why they were late, I figured they’d probably never heard the “sorry, I’m late, but there was a mouse in my dad’s car” excuse before.
I still had to take my oldest to school in the next town, so we headed out. I tried talking to my son to try and make his morning a little less miserable than it had started out, but he had no interest in talking and just stared out the window despite my best mouse in the car jokes. When we reached school, I’d planned to just park out front, leave the baby In the car since it was pouring and quickly sign him in so I could run back to the car before the baby even realized the car had stopped. Of course, as I stood at the passenger door in the pouring rain, trying to gather my son’s things and get him out, my son had different plans. Now he had decided that he was tired and didn’t want to go to school. The clock was quickly approaching 9:30 and I had to be somewhere by 10:00. I was sleep deprived, hadn’t had enough coffee, and was standing in the pouring rain; I didn’t have the time or patience for this. Despite my best efforts to encourage, pep talk, and sympathize with my son, he wasn’t moving, so ultimately I had to threaten loss of video games to get him out (this is my go to move when nothing else works, but I hate that it has to come to that point). Finally my son got out of the car and dragged his “tired” body to the front door complaining that he was going to be grumpy all day. I told him to join the club, signed him in, and kissed him goodbye.
I felt bad and worried most of the day about my oldest’s morning and hoped his day wasn’t too bad, but I’m pretty sure he had forgotten all about it the moment he entered his classroom because when I met him at the bus in the afternoon, he came bounding out with all the energy of a typical first grader and full of smiles. My husband and I made it to over appointments with just minutes to spare, though I’m not sure either of us had our whits completely about us or enough coffee to function well. My middle two were about 20-25 minutes late to school, which is less than three hours long to begin with. As for the mouse, he has not been caught, nor have we seen anymore evidence of him residing in my husbands car. We can only hope that he found his way out of the car and has made a lovely new home for himself over at my husband’s new office.
Like I said, this morning was just another typical morning in our household. The thing about having four kids is, something strange and untypical is always happening as part of that typical day, like a mouse in the car, but the chaos is part of what makes a big family so fun.

How I met your mother according to a five year old

My husband has been rewatching the tv series How I Met Your Mother. My seven year old has decided that he likes what he has seen of the show and asked if we could watch it tonight. My five year old then turned to his three year old brother and said “Hey, want to know how I met your mother?” My three year old stared blankly at him. My five year old then answers “I popped out of her belly!” Yes, yes you did. He was a c-section.

Life with a three year old

3 yr old: Me want
Me: you want the Chex mix? Okay, but it is the last of it, it is mostly crumbs. (Handing him the bowl) Just don’t spill it.
Two seconds later the bowl of Chex mix is all over the floor and he is crying.
3 yr old: Me want! Me want!
Of course you do.

Ready for a New Year

This has been a tough year for us. It didn’t start off great, a stomach bug ripped through the family twice in the first few weeks, and then it got worse when I landed in the hospital on bed rest at 28 weeks pregnant and delivered my baby at 31 weeks. This year wasn’t all bad but I’m definitely ready to say good bye. Before I do though, I wanted to count my blessings and remind myself that even the darkest hours can bring light, it might just take some time.
Like many of my readers, we sleep-walked through the nightmare that is the NICU. We did 77 days there, though it certainly felt longer, but like my husband remarked today, that nightmare feels so much longer ago than it was (even if I still have some PTSD from it). We took home a struggling baby, still living off a feeding tube and struggling to breathe. We received crushing news that he was probably going to have repeat surgeries for his first year, possibly longer. We dealt with a second hospital stay only two months after bringing him home. We found ourselves in some very dark hours. During those dark hours though, we learned who truly cared for our family (and unfortunately, who couldn’t be bothered with us). We saw the great compassion of strangers and became closer with people we barely knew. I found a renewed sense of God and religion. We also received better news than we could have hoped for.
Now we have a happy, healthy, wonderful baby boy. We feel so blessed. Our struggles were tough, but instead of feeling like we were cursed by all that happened, I feel like it has given me hope and purpose. I discovered multiple preemie support groups on line and I’ve continued to keep in contact with them. I feel like my pain and experience can now help others going through similar situations. I feel like we received so much love and charity in our time of need that I want to pay it forward and make next year not a year of need, but a year of giving.
Looking back at this year and coming out on the other side of everything, I feel blessed. I have four beautiful boys who I love with all my heart. I have a wonderful husband who helped me through this year and I feel closer to for it. My baby made it out of the hospital just in time to enjoy nearly perfect summer weather which allowed us to be outside. We had family outings to zoos, beaches, and parks. We welcomed my all my family for a reunion and enjoyed time together. I witnessed my usually timid 4 year old (now 5) decide to take off his training wheels, hop on his bike, and start riding all by himself. Despite everything this year, we laughed, loved, and enjoyed each other as a family.
This year didn’t start off well and the majority of it sucked, but it also brought hope. So for those of you still living through those struggles, just know that they do eventually end, hopefully in a positive way. However and whenever they end though, you will be stronger for it and hopefully find a higher purpose through your struggles. 2014 wasn’t my family’s year, maybe 2015 won’t be your year, but whatever this year brought and next year brings, count the blessings you do have, enjoy those little moments, and know that there is always hope with the New Year.

Your presences is the true present

Dear Husband of Mine,

It is only a few days until Christmas and you are now on vacation, so I just want to remind you of a few things. First and foremost, you are on vacation from work, not your family and it is the holidays, a time for family, so please be mindful of this.

You have worked so hard the past few months, working long hours, missing meals and bedtimes, working despite being sick or it being your day off. We appreciate all this hard work, but we’ve missed you. We have dealt with you being tied to your phone, answering every email and text and even jumping up in the middle of dinner to log back into work. We worked around your sudden call into work on the boys’ birthday when it was your day off and rearranged our day so you could deal with problems that arose, but now your big project is done and launched and you have a break, so please take that break. Put your phone down, stop checking your emails and texts, don’t even look at newsfeeds or blogs. Let this be the last one you look at, let the message sink in, then put away your electronic devices, and enjoy some time with your family.

The boys have all missed you, they crave your attention. They don’t want you half paying attention, they want you involved. They may not be doing what you want to be doing, but they want you to take an interest and spend some time with them. Our oldest is already 7 and they are all growing so fast. One day you’ll come home and the kids will all be gone. They will be off doing their own things and want nothing to do with us, so savor these moments, don’t waste them and miss out. This time doesn’t last forever, you will miss it when it is gone.

This is the baby’s first Christmas, sure he won’t remember it, but we will and so will his brothers. Think back to 9 months ago, when he was in the NICU, we didn’t know if he would make it to his first Christmas. This could’ve been a sad time, if things hadn’t turned out ok. This Christmas would feel a lot different if we had lost him in our struggles this year. We’ve been through so much this year and now it is almost over, so take some time to reflex on this past year and all that we’ve survived. Take some time for quiet appreciation of all we are blessed to have.

Remember what this time of year is about, family and traditions, giving and loving, and selfless acts of kindness. Your boys look to you to see how they should behave. If you lack the Christmas spirit, they will do the same. Show them all the fun they can have enjoying the simple things. Help us do some baking, wrapping, and celebrating. Watch holiday shows, sing Christmas carols, wear a silly Christmas hat. Show them how important it is to give and not just receive. Put away your yelling, aggravated voice, chose to laugh instead.

Lastly I ask, for the one true gift I want. Please be present this week in all we do. Listen to me and actually hear what I say. Please pay attention, make some memories, and enjoy our beautiful family. We love you and we want you here physically, mentally, and emotionally. Now go put your phone and tablet down and let’s enjoy this holiday.

Love,
Your Wife and Children

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