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

Archive for the tag “parenthood”

Looking back, two year later

Two years ago tonight, I layed awake in a hospital bed, hooked up to a multitude of wires. The wires were not only to monitor me and my extremely high blood pressure, but also to monitor my baby and his constantly dipping heart rate. I laid there listening for those dips, praying that they would fix themselves, and that my baby would stay strong enough to make it to the morning, when I was to have a csection to bring my baby boy into the world nine weeks ahead of schedule. It was much too early for my baby to come, but the doctors hoped that they’d be able to better care for him on the outside than inside me. I laid in that bed terrified, knowing that we were in for a long journey that I just hoped my baby would be able to survive.

Our stay in the NICU lasted 77 days, but our journey did not end when we came home. My son left the hospital with a feeding tube and we struggled for two months with feeding schedules, reinserting tubes, doctors visits,  pumping, attempting to breast feed, wheezing, and problems with breathing before we found ourselves back in the hospital. We spent another two weeks in the hospital being told to prepare for multiple hospital stays and surgeries. This child’s life had not started the way we had hoped and it was looking like it wasn’t going to get better anytime soon, but as the saying goes, it is always darkest before dawn. We received miracle news the day of surgery that my son had an easily treatable cyst and that the bleak future we had been preparing for was not going to happen. Two days later, we were back home and my son was eating like a champ, no more feeding tube.

That chapter in our lives feels like it was forever ago. When I look at my son now, it is hard to believe that he is the same kid who went through all of this. Aside from how skinny and small he is, no one would ever look at my son and guess that this was the story of his first six months. My son is turning two tomorrow and he has already been practicing for the part of the troublesome two year old. He is into everything, moving furniture, climbing on chairs, figuring out how to open things he shouldn’t, and making messes faster than I can clean them. I’m pretty sure his thinks his job each day is to mess up as much stuff as he can before he gets put to bed each night. He is very good at his job. As much as he loves to be near his mommy, he is very fiercely independent and insists that he do many things on his own and to be treated like his older brothers. He insists on big boy cups and forks. He wants to sit on the potty when his brothers do. He likes to play whatever his brothers play. In his mind, he is already a big boy. When he doesn’t get his way though, watch out, because he has been practicing his terrible two tantrums, complete with laying on the floor, kicking and screaming, and pushing his body about on his back. Luckily for him he has the cutest smile, the sweetest little curls, the prettiest blue eyes, and a contagious laugh that all allow him to get away with acting like a brat or making a giant mess. One look at him and your heart just melts.

Watching my youngest son sleep, cuddled into my bed with his brothers for his last night as a baby, it seems impossible that just two years ago he was my smallest baby. Just two years ago, that 18 pound ball of trouble was my 2lb 12 oz miracle baby. Two years ago, he was struggle to survive this journey, now I’m struggle to keep up. Happy birthday baby boy.


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.


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

A few four year old gems

I’m long over due for some funny things my kids say, so here are a few nuggets from the past months.

My four year old:

“Can we go to the Space Noodle?” (We live outside of Seattle now)

Upon seeing me after I had my last baby, “Your belly got all small and your boobs got all big!”

Looking down my shirt at my massive “new mom” cleavage, “You have a butt on your chest.”

“I want the new baby to come home…so I can fart on him.”

He’s such a sweet boy.

Too many moms

My son has been in the NICU now for seven weeks. He has some of the most wonderful nurses there. We totally appreciate them and all they do and often express our gratitude through chocolate. These nurses are there around the clock, most of the time when we can’t be there and they take care of my little guy as if he were their own. I often wonder though, with so many secondary moms taking care of him, does my son know who I am?

These wonderful NICU nurses diaper, clothe, feed, and comfort my baby when I am not there (on top of all the medical treatments they constantly provide). They are amazing at their jobs and I feel good knowing that my son is in such good hands when I can’t be there. I have three other sons at home to care for, so I can’t be at the hospital 24/7. We are so fortunate to often have the same nurses taking care of my son over long periods of time. It is nice to have consistency. The thing is, some of these nurses have spent more time with my son over the past 7 weeks than I have and it makes me sad that in the first weeks of life my son is being attended to more by other people than his own mother.

When my other three boys were born, they hardly left my arms. I didn’t send them to the nursery so I could rest while in the hospital, they didn’t sleep in cribs, and they didn’t have a nanny. I held my babies unless I was going to the bathroom or showering. The voice they heard the most and the scent they were enveloped by over the first few months was mine. Sure, dad and some family members got to hold them and maybe even feed them on occasion, but 98% of the time they were with me. With a baby in the NICU though, all this is impossible. Even if this was my only child and I lived in the NICU 24/7, I still wouldn’t be able to hold my baby as much as I did the other boys. I didn’t even get to touch my baby for almost 24 hours after he was born and it was a little over a week before I was able to hold him. Even once I was able to hold him, it was only for a limited amount of time each day because he wasn’t able to maintain this body temperature and had to be in the isolet for most of the day. Once I was able to hold him for less limited amounts of times, we still ran into problems like a horrible bum rash that required him to lay on his belly with his bum undiapered and sunning under a lamp for most of the day. Then of course is the reality that he isn’t my only child, so I am only able to be with him for 4-6 hours a day. This leaves him spending the majority of his time with those fantastic nurses and leaves me wondering if he ever gets confused about who mom really is.

Most babies can at least make a connection with being fed and mom (or sometimes dad), but as I attempted to feed my little guy the other day, I realized that this wasn’t true for him. He still gets most of his nourishment through the tube in his nose, which is the main reason he is still in the NICU, but bottle feeding is attempted at most feedings. These days, I can only be there for one feeding which means 7 out of 8 feedings a day are being given to him by someone other than mom. It is a strange thought to think that your baby is being feed your milk by someone else more often than he’s being fed it by you. Which means, he isn’t associating the taste of my milk with me. As far as he is concerned, I’m just another lady who comes into his room and fusses with him for a few hours and then leaves until my next shift. That makes me so sad.

As much as I love the nurses and the care my son gets from them, it breaks my heart to think that I’m just another person in a whole line of caregivers and I’m not mom, that special lady who cared him for months and makes that milk he drinks. I know that eventually he will make that distinction and he will be as attached to me as my other sons, but it is just so hard to not feel that connection when he is so little and especially since I was suppose to still have him all to myself inside me right now. I suppose this is just one more reason why I am desperate to get him home. If only we could get past all the road blocks and get him home so I could be his one and only mom. Of course, once he is home, there is a chance that I won’t put him down until he needs to leave for college. Then again, there are online colleges now, so maybe I won’t even have to put him down for that.

When life in the NICU becomes the norm


As I drive through the parking garage, I head straight for the fourth floor, because that is where I know I’ll find parking, and I realized that this has become yet another norm of my daily routine. A daily routine that is far from the norm for most parents.

We are now well into our sixth week of life in the NICU; going on nine weeks since our lives were turned up side down and the hospital became a second home for us. It has gotten to the point where I know many of the hospital staff, from nurses and doctors, to housekeeping and food service workers. The guys who work the booth in the garage seem to recognize our car and van when we approach. I know where the vending machines and bathrooms are on several of the floors and I could probably walk the route from the garage to the two different NICUs blindfolded (I do so most days half asleep). I know which days are the busiest (usually Mondays) and which days are the quietest (Sundays are like a ghost town). I know the hours of the coffee shops and caf├ęs and have seen the daily specials rotate through their line up several times (the raviolis are good, but they don’t give you enough for the price). Many people at the hospital know me too, not my name, but by face. They smile or say hi as we pass in the halls, some even stop to ask how the baby or my other boys are. It is clear that I spend a lot of time here.

My days usually consist of visits for several hours during the morning until mid afternoon, at least six days a week. During the work week, I’m usually to the hospital by 9:30 or 10:00 (every once in awhile I’m so exhausted that I can’t get out of bed and come a little later). I’m usually in my son’s room for rounds. I’m there for one to two feeds a day, skip lunch so I can be with him, and then grab an ice tea for the ride home, which can be a long one if I don’t leave before 3:00 since traffic in the area starts that early. On weekends, I often come in a little later so that my husband and I can try to catch up on some sleep by taking turns going back to bed in the morning. On weekends I don’t have to worry about getting out before a certain time because of traffic or my kids coming home from school, so I have a little more flexibility. For the most part, I try to plan my visits around school schedules and NICU feelings so I can be with my kids as much as possible.

What I do during my visits to the NICU has changed with time. At first I would just come and sit near the isolet, watching my son breath with the help of machines, occasionally touching his tiny body through a porthole. I just wanted to be near him, in the same room as him. After a week or so, I was finally able to hold him for small amounts of time. I would take great joy in any small motherly activity that I was able to do, like change an occasional diaper through the porthole. I savored the small amount of time I was able to hold him close to me, skin to skin. Eventually some of the tubes and leads were taken out and he was transferred to an open air crib in which I could touch him in and pick him up out of without as much fuss. I went from waiting for a nurse to come in and help me with all the motherly activities I was able to do, to mothering on my own.

These days, I come in, wash my hands, check his current weight on the board, and go about my business. Lately he has been propped on his belly, bare bottom in the air, being sunned under a light due to a very sore bum thanks to the human milk fortifier that they add to his regular breast milk. When he isn’t in this position though, I help myself to my baby. I check his body temperature, change his diaper, wrap him in blankets, and move cords so I can hold him. When it is time for feedings, I just go a head and start if I’m going to try to breast feed him, knowing he will only take a few milliliters and that it is mostly just practice for him. I’m a pro with the breast shield and positioning, holding him just right so that he will relax his jaw enough to allow the nipple in. On days that I’m going to practice bottle feeding, I get everything set up before the nurse comes in to mix up the milk. When she does come in, I know what questions to ask, both professionally about my baby and socially, about her day off or family. I know the best positions to hold him in to bottle feed, how many sucks he takes before he needs a breath, when he needs to burp, and how to get him to. I also know when he has had enough and it is time to finish the feed through his tube. I sit with him, skin to skin, allowing him to sleep comfortably for the rest of the feed. When the feed is done and the machine begins to ding, I know how to turn it off and disconnect him from it.

I know the names of his nurses and doctors, the names of the machines and procedures, what each ding means and which cords to check when they sound, which supplements he is on, and where to find any extra supplies I might need while I am there. These things have all just become a part of my everyday routine, a part of my norm. These things are all just part of life in the NICU. A life I’m ready to be done with.

One month later

A month ago, at this very moment, I was hunched over a table in the OR as the anesthesiologist pricked my back several painful times, looking for the right spot to give me my epidural. I was about to go under the knife for the fourth time, for my fourth son. This c-section though was going to be very different from the other three, it would be the most painful and emotionally draining of them all. I would not come out of this c-section to have my baby placed in my arms and my joy over take my pain, instead it would only be one of many scary and painful steps in my youngest son’s journey into this world, a journey that started two months sooner than it should have.

That was all a month ago now and many things have changed in that month. Things certainly aren’t as scary or painful as they were a month ago. Last night my little guy was moved from the long term NICU to the short term NICU in preparation of going home soon. This is just one of many exciting and hopeful signs we have been given in the last few days. At one month old (35 weeks 3 days adjusted) my little guy is now almost 4 and a half pounds, up from 2lbs 12oz at birth. He has been off oxygen and at room air for a couple of weeks. He was moved out of the isolet and into a crib a week ago. He began to be introduced to the breast and then the bottle within the past week. As of this morning, he has doubled the amount of milk he was able to take from a bottle during one feeding from 12 to 24ml. He is doing so well that the only thing left for him to do is to be able to take his entire feeding, every time, by bottle (or breast, but that will likely happen after he comes home). Things are looking good for my little guy.

It is hard to believe that my little guy was born a month ago. In many ways it feels like we have been traveling back and forth to the NICU forever, yet it also feels like he was just born yesterday. The past month has been so strange and filled with so many emotions. Now we are getting ready for new emotions and experiences, the feeling of elation and apprehension at the idea of finally bringing our preemie home in the next week or two. Soon all the pain and fear of the past month (and even longer) will no longer matter because I will be home with my littlest guy in my arms and that is all that will matter; and for that I am thankful.

The beauty of breast feeding

My littlest guy is 25 days old (a little over 34 weeks adjusted) and he seems to be doing well. He averages a weight gain of about 2 oz a day and is approaching the 4 pound mark. He is still being tube fed, but in the past week I have begun to introduce him to the breast. Teaching him to breast feed isn’t easy, but it is one of the most rewarding tasks I do these days.

There is nothing better than spending those quiet moments, just before tube feeding begins, with my tiny naked baby cuddled in my arms, doing skin-to-skin. I insert him into my low-cut v-neck shirt, curl his petite body around me, and press his naked body against my bare belly. His little head dons a white hat with blue whales as it peaks out of the top of my shirt and nestles into my breast. He is awake, eyes wide, staring at me with wonder. I speak to him softly as I introduce the nipple to him, trying to get him to open his mouth wide enough to envelop it. He is not sure what to do or why he is doing it since he is use to his hunger being automatically sated through the tube directly into his belly, but his natural rooting reflexes take over. Once we manage to work together to get the nipple into his mouth, he still isn’t sure what to do with it, but eventually he latches and manages to suck for a few brief seconds. It doesn’t last long, but a smile spreads across his face so wide that it forces him to close his eyes. Sounds of what might even be a tiny hiccup of a laugh escape him and he knows this is something good. We work at this several more times over the course of about five minutes. I gently a sure him that he is doing a good job and acknowledge how exhausting his efforts are, but let him know that we will continue to work on it day by day and he will eventually get it. After about five minutes of valiant effort, he passes out, using my breast as a pillow, sleeping peacefully in my arms as his belly is filled with milk through the tube.

It may seem like such a short amount of time, but it is the quality of that time that counts. Nothing else around us matters in those few moments, it is just us, mother and son, working together as a team, to accomplish such an intimate and natural goal. For many babies and moms, breast feeding comes easily, but not for my little preemie; for him it takes work, exhausting work, but we do is work together and I enjoy every second of it. There is not a better time in my day than the time I spend bonding with my tiny little guy over the breast.


A new meaning to the phrase “standing cheek to cheek”

As my kids stripped naked for baths tonight, I looked over to see my 5 and 3 year old standing bent over, butt to butt. My 5 year old than shouts, “Mom, we just did a butt high-five!”

Conversations with a three year old

“I have no penis, I have boobs. I have no butt.” My three year old son says as he gets dressed.
My husband says “I see your bum.”
“No, that’s not my bum, that’s my boobs!”
Ok then.

Conversation with a 5 year old

The following conversation occurred during our car ride home from school today after my son had been playing outside in the dirt.

“Mom, I need to clean my hands.”
“We will wash our hands as soon as we get home.”
“No, I need to clean them now!”
“I want to pick my nose.”
“Well, picking your nose is dirty and you’d have to wash them again anyway if you pick your nose.”
“But I want to pick my nose and I don’t want to get sand in my nose!”
“Well how about you just not pick your nose because that is gross.”
“No! I want to pick my nose!”
“Why do you want to pick your nose so bad?”
“Because I like to.”

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