Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Mom I Never Wanted To Be

I am the mom I never wanted to be.  I'm the mom no one wants to be actually.  It's a sad thing to think but it's true.  I'm a preemie mom and a food allergy mom.  No one wants to be either of those but yet, here I am owning both titles.

Katherine was born prematurely at 33 weeks ushering me into the Preemie Momma club.  It took me a long time to accept what happened.  My body had failed us.  You're supposed to carry your baby to term.  You're supposed to take your baby home with you when you leave the hospital and not leave her there in the NICU to be cared for by nurses and not her mom and dad.  And most people succeed at doing so and don't bat an eye.  But not me.  My pregnancy with Katherine morphed into a life-threatening situation that at times, I still can't believe.  I can't believe how fast everything went wrong and I can't believe how lucky we are that I lived and that Katherine doesn't have any lasting effects from her premature birth.  I had planned to have a completely natural unmedicated birth because it's what I always wanted.  (Absolutely no judgement regarding other people's choices.  Our births are our births and our preferences are our own.)  Everything went south when my atypical preeclampsia went into full swing and an emergency c-section was needed to save our lives.  My lungs were filling with fluid from all of the swelling.  Had I not gone to the hospital the night Katherine was born, I would have drown to death.  Just typing that is mind-boggling.  But we made it through it.  Katherine lived in the NICU for 28 days.  The majority of the time she lived there, I stayed there.  I slept in her NICU room on a cot provided by the hospital so I could be present for every feeding.  I don't regret staying there.

Sean is highly allergic to peanuts and allergic to dairy thus my title of Food Allergy Mom.  We're at the beginning of our journey with food allergies and how to manage them.  We've made mistakes but we've also gotten a lot right.  The scary thing about his allergy is not being able to let my guard down about his food for a second.  The one time I didn't think and gave him a cookie at a community event, it was a peanut butter cookie and he had a reaction.  Not an anaphylactic reaction (thank God) but a reaction none the less.  We've made our home peanut-free under the advice of his allergist.  When asked if we should do this, the allergist's exact words were "I'd sleep better at night if you did.".  Another direct quote from Sean's allergist, "This is the real deal peanut allergy.  I don't like giving these diagnosis but this is very serious.".  If hearing those words about your own child doesn't strike fear into your heart, I don't know what will.  The scary reality for Sean is if we don't monitor all of his food and read all of the ingredients, he could have a life-threatening reaction.  Before he was diagnosed and we suspected his reaction, I didn't sleep at night.  I was afraid we had given him something he was allergic too without knowing it and he went into anaphylactic shock while he was sleeping.  Is this insane?  Probably.  We were very careful with his food once we suspected his allergy but I was uneducated about his allergy and terrified for my child.  There is a possibility he could outgrow his allergies.  It's more likely he will outgrow the dairy allergy than the peanut allergy.  Outgrowing a peanut allergy is possible but not very many people do.  We're praying he outgrows it but not getting our hopes up.  I struggle with the idea that he'll have this condition for the rest of his life.

The thing I've discovered about both of these titles is there's a sisterhood that comes with them.  All preemie mommas remember the date they brought their babies home.  We welcome each other into the group; even though we don't want new members.  There's an understanding when you find another preemie mom.  There's a strength in preemie moms because we've been through so much at the beginning of our mom journey.  There's also comfort in numbers, I've found.  I've found comfort in meeting other Food Allergy Moms because they get it.  They get what it's like to read food labels, to be afraid of anaphylactic shock and of not being able to relax about your child's diet.  We understand about asking what oil is used in food fast restaurants and leaving a restaurant if the oil contains an allergen.  We understand debating if you should pack your child's lunch or let him eat the hot lunch provided by school.  This is an easy decision for non-allergy moms but one that takes up a lot of mental space for food allergy moms.  Any food allergy mom (or food allergy individual) I've met so far has been willing to share their experiences and coping mechanisms.  And for that I am grateful.  Some day I'll be on the other side of this journey and comforting a new member of the Food Allergy Mom club but for now, I'm taking the comfort of the moms who have been there.

And while it is sad to bear mom titles no one wants to bear, I wouldn't change anything (ok, I'd make Sean's allergies not life-threatening but that's it).  These titles have made me a stronger mom and a better mom.  I'm grateful I'm the mom I never wanted to be because it's exactly the mom I'm supposed to be.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Declutter My World

Confession: Steve and I hadn't really decluttered/deep cleaned our house since we moved in...over 4 years ago.  I've deep cleaned the kitchen and the bathrooms but certain areas of our house, like the basement, sat ignored.  Stuff accumulated in those areas.  A lot of stuff.  You see, I would go through things in the main living areas of the house and say "This is going to Goodwill" and down to the basement the item would go.  And all of those items stayed in the basement until last month.  Earlier in April, I decided I needed to dedicate a day to deep cleaning when the kids would be at daycare.  I knew serious decluttering/deep cleaning would not happen if our kids were here.  I picked a day and told Steve my plan.  He decided to also take the day off and help me.  I'm really glad he did.  We were able to work together but also divide and conquer.  I had an ambitious list.  A list I knew would not get fully completed.  My list: basement, coat closet, office, porch, and other closets.  We conquered the basement (no small feat), the coat closet, the kids' toys and our porch.  I'm pretty psyched to say all of the areas are staying clutter free.  I'm really proud of the basement, even though there are no before and after pictures to illustrate my point and we're the only ones that see it.  It was cluttered with stuff that needed a designated spot or crap that just needed to leave our house for good.  We made 2 trips to Goodwill and filled our large garbage can outside.  It was so nice!  The coat closet was also a huge success.  There was too much stuff in there: board games, coats that were too big and small for the people living in our house, coloring books, crayons, random outdoor toys, etc.  It's a small closet and it was packed to the brim.  There was no breathing room in this closet whatsoever.  I moved the board games and decks of cards to the basement.  Steve and I haven't been able to play board games since Katherine was born.  Something about small pieces and a baby just didn't seem like a good idea... We'll have family game nights when the kids get a little older but for now, the board games don't need to be upstairs.  The coats that didn't fit were moved to the basement.  The outdoor toys were taken to the porch and added to the outdoor toy tote.

I'm most proud of the toys.  Any parent can attest to how easy it is for toys to get out of hand.  Our toys had spiraled out of control.  I refuse to have a designated toy room in our house.  My kids don't need that many toys and they usually want to be where we are anyways.  I did have to stop halfway through the toys and run to Dollar Tree for storage containers.  All of the food-related toys and play kitchen stuff went to the kitchen where we have their toy kitchen set up.  After I came back with the storage containers I started separating the toys.  Here are the categories I came up with: Little People items, blocks, puzzles, dress-up items, cars, balls, Legos, random small toys they like, stuffed animals, baby dolls and baby doll items, MegaBlocks and craft items.  I do have a few miscellaneous toys that stayed upstairs but all other toys were taken to the basement.  If we had duplicates of toys that weren't played with often, the duplicate went to Goodwill.  I didn't take before pictures but here are a few after pictures:

The white drawer thing still contains MegaBlocks and craft supplies.  I didn't see a reason to change this.  The white baskets contain dress-up items with accessories in the small white basket on the top shelf.  The small purple basket on the top shelf holds the random small toys they like.  The tote next to it contains their Etch-a-Sketch toys and vintage music boxes.  The Minnie Mouse bucket holds Legos.  (We don't have a ton...yet.)  The square tote on the end holds balls.  Cars are in the pink basket and puzzles are in the purple tote.  Blocks are in the orange basket and Little People items are in the blue basket.  

The toy box contains their stuffed animals.  As a kid, I had a hard time letting go of stuffed animals and as an adult, I still do.  I know it's silly.  The gray tote next to the toy box holds Katherine's babies and baby things (blankets, pillows, bottles, carrier).  

The best parts of this toy system:
1. They play with their toys more.  Katherine and Sean can find their toys and actually play with them.  
2. Katherine knows were her toys are.  Just yesterday she told me "Mommy, I want my pony that goes with this car. It's in the purple tote."  She knew the exact location of the toy... how awesome is that?!
3. This system makes picking up really easy and fast.  Whether it's me picking up the toys or Katherine picking them up, it's easy to know what goes where because everything has a different color and a specific place.  

Steve decluttered our porch.  We had a ton of junk on our porch that didn't serve any particular purpose.  Items either found their spot in the house or were donated.  And the best part, we've actually been able to use our porch for playing and eating supper.  Here are a couple of the after pictures: 

(Sorry for the blurry quality!)

Is our house perfect?  No.  Does it look exactly like the pictures I shared?  No, because real life happens and as long as the basic frame of organization is being followed, that's all I want.  

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Children's Liturgy of the Word

See how excited Katherine is?  That's because she made her headband during Children's Liturgy of the Word at Mass last Sunday.  This was a big accomplishment for us.  Our parish has Children's Liturgy of Word during the 9 o'clock Sunday Mass.  The kids go to the Parish Hall and learn about that day's Gospel while making crafts or coloring.  In the past, I've encouraged Katherine to go but at the last minute she gets scared and runs back to me.  She was always afraid to go by herself.  She's pretty shy and doesn't know any of the other kids in our Parish.  (I'm working on that.)  Last Sunday on the drive to Mass, I talked to Katherine about the Children's Liturgy of the Word.  She wanted me to go with her and I explained it was only for the kids, not the mommies and daddies.  She said she wanted her cousins to go with her which is a great idea.  The only problem with that idea is we don't have family in Sioux City.  I explained to Katherine that her cousins don't live in Sioux City and go to a different church.  She told me it was scary and I told her she didn't have to decide right then if she wanted to go.  She could decide at the last minute in church, which is what she did.  When it came time for the kids to gather, she said no, it was scary and she didn't want to go.  Suddenly she changed her mind.  I walked to the front of the church with her so she could get her blessing before leaving.  Standing next to us was a high-school girl.  I quietly asked if she was one of the helpers and she said she was.  "Katherine, this is one of the teachers.  She's going to help you make some fun crafts today," I told Katherine while pointing to the girl.  "Do you want to make some fun crafts today?" the girl asked Katherine.  When the blessing was complete, the girl took Katherine by the hand and they left the church.  I could tell Katherine was nervous.  She looked back a few times and had a nervousness in her posture as she walked out but she made it.  Even Father McLoud was impressed.  I kept an eye out for her when the kids started coming back into church.  It's left up to the kids to find their parents when the Children's Liturgy is done.  (I wish they'd do that differently.)  The same high school girl who took Katherine's hand to go to Children's Liturgy was walking with her again and holding her hand as they looked for me.  I gave Katherine a big wave and they both saw me.  Katherine came running over, wearing her headband.  We were both very excited.  Katherine's verdict on Children's Liturgy: It was fun but she missed me.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

What I'm Reading, May 2016 edition

As mentioned in previous blog posts, I love to read.  With two little people running around, reading can be hard to squeeze in.  I usually read during my lunch hour and right before bed.  Here is what I'm currently reading and what's on my to-be read list:

On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder
I'm slowly reading my way through the Little House series. I finished Farmer Boy in April and started On the Banks of Plum Creek.  In this book, Laura's family has moved to Minnesota and is living in a dugout, to use Ma's words.  I'm not very far into to the book so I really can't offer much of a synopsis.  This is my before bed book and I'm really enjoying it.  The books are an easy enough read to help me relax before going to sleep and the chapters are just the right length too.

Hands Free Life: 9 Habits for Overcoming Distraction, Living Better and Loving More by Rachel Macy Stafford
This book is pretty interesting.  The subtitle is what drew me to the book.  I definitely need help overcoming distraction which seems to be ever present in our world.  I can't say that I've implemented each habit.  I'm not one to drastically overhaul our lives just because a book says to.  The book does provide some interesting things to think about and overall I've enjoyed the book.  The author does include a poem with each section or chapter, which I skip over.  I don't mind some poetry but Stafford's style is not my thing.  I also bought Stafford's other book Hands Free Mama: A Guide to Putting Down the Phone, Burning the To-Do List, and Letting Go of Perfection to Grasp What Really Matters!.  I probably won't read it immediately after finishing this book but I will add it to my list of books to read this year.

On My Bookshelf:
Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living by Alisa Marie Fleming
   I bought this book awhile ago when I needed to cut dairy out of my diet when Sean was a newborn.  His dairy allergy seems to have flared back up so I'm going to be revisiting this book.

By The Shores of Silver Lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  The next book in the Little House series.  It will be my before bed book.

Homer's Odyssey: A Fearless Feline, or How I Learned About Love and Life with a Blind Wonder Cat by Gwen Cooper
  I picked up this book at the Book Lover's Book Sale our public library puts on every year.  {A side note: This was the first year I went to the book sale and I'm totally hooked. Great books for a super cheap price, yes please!}  I'm a cat person so pretty much any book about cats will catch my eye.  I also love stories about people or animals overcoming the odds so a story about a blind cat really appealed to me.

What are you reading?

Friday, April 15, 2016

Blowing the Dust Off

That's right!  I'm blowing the dust off my blog and reviving it.  I've been away from my blog and writing for quite some time.  There were multiple causes.  A new baby and  a toddler made me too busy to even think straight.  There were some family events happening that made me too sad to even try to write.  And many other reasons.  But I feel ready to dive back into writing.  I've missed it.  Stay tuned.  I'll have another post early next week.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

A Tale of Two Births

At first glance, my birth stories might seem identical.  Both of my children were delivered by c-section. But two pregnancies, two deliveries are never the same.  My pregnancies and birth stories prove this statement to be 100% true.

My pregnancy with Katherine was full of complications: high blood pressure, swelling, irregular heartbeat and fluid in my lungs.  This was diagnosed as atypical preeclampsia and resulted in an emergency c-section 33 weeks into my pregnancy.   Katherine was born at 2:30 in the morning. After Katherine was born, my doctor said "It's a girl!" and I heard her cry.  The sound was a welcomed sound.  I had been in the hospital for observation earlier in the week and was given a steroid shot to help Katherine's lungs develop.  Hearing her cry reassured me that her lungs were fine.  The NICU nurse brought her over to me all swaddled up and said "Kiss goodbye before she goes upstairs".  I kissed her face and they took her away.  Another nurse asked Steve if he was staying with me or going with Katherine.  Steve asked me what he should do and I told him to go with Katherine.  I didn't want her to be by herself up in the NICU.  (I know she wasn't technically by herself with the doctors and nurses there but I couldn't stomach the idea of her not being with one of us.)  Steve followed the nurse upstairs and I immediately wished I had told him to stay.  This feeling immediately went away after my procedure was done.  I'm still glad I told Steve to go with Katherine.  I don't remember much from that day.  I do remember thinking I was never going to get better and feeling terrible that I wouldn't be able to care for the tiny baby upstairs in the NICU.  "All I wanted was a baby" I remember thinking.  Hours later the nurses and Steve wheeled me (IV and all) to the NICU so I could see Katherine and hold her that first day.  I could only hold her for 10 minutes at a time because I was so weak.  I wanted to hold her longer but I just couldn't.  I was so sick and out of it that first day that I don't remember having the morphine drip provided for all c-sections.  I also wasn't able to adequately manage my pain because I was simply too sick the first few days and the pain got out of control. I spent 7 days in the hospital recovering from my c-section and preeclampsia.  Katherine was born 7 weeks early and stayed in the hospital 29 days.

My pregnancy with Sean went so much smoother.  The only complication I had was gestational diabetes which at worst was annoying.  I was able to manage it with diet and exercise.  My c-section was scheduled.  Steve and I drove to the hospital, checked in and within a few hours had our baby boy.  The OR staff was relaxed and introduced themselves to me as they prepared for the surgery.  (With my first c-section, the atmosphere was a lot more stressed due to my unstable condition and the knowledge of delivering a baby early.)  The surgical nurse and my doctor held my hands as the spinal was put in place.  After Sean was delivered, my doctor held him up so I could see him over the tarp exclaiming "It's a boy!" and I cried tears of joy.  Steve was able to go with the nurse to weigh Sean.  The staff were guessing Sean's weight because he was a lot bigger than the doctor had anticipated.  He weighed 9 lbs and 1 oz.  A nurse practitioner from the NICU was called down because Sean's Apgar score had decreased to a 7 from the 8 he initially scored.  The nurse practitioner had been one of Katherine's NICU nurses so it was fun to see her again.  Sean was able to stay downstairs and not make a stay at the NICU.  Steve brought Sean over to me and I was able to hold him for a little bit.  When the nurse took Sean out of the OR, Steve went with him.  (It's my preference to have him go with the baby instead of stay with me.)  A little while later I was wheeled back to my recovery room and able to see both of them.  Sean's blood sugar was low so he was given a little bit of formula to bring his sugars up.  I was better able to control my pain after Sean's birth.  Being healthy will have that effect. ;)  My hospital stay was 4 days and I was able to take my baby home with me when I left.  I can't explain how great of a feeling that is after not being able to do that with Katherine.  My recovery has been so much smoother.  A lot of this has to do with my health after the birth and also the reduced stress load.  I don't have to go back to the NICU each day to be with my baby or worry about balancing time at home with time at the hospital.  I can simply enjoy my maternity leave with both of my kids.

To further illustrate the differences in my birth stories, here are a few pictures:

After Katherine was born:

(Believe it or not, this was NOT the worst picture of me from that day.)

After Sean was born:

Monday, December 8, 2014

34 Weeks and Counting!

34 weeks!  34 weeks!  34 weeks!  I made it to 34 weeks!  I've never made it this far into a pregnancy before.  Katherine was born at 33 weeks.  Steve and I psyched about how well this pregnancy is going.  It's a nice feeling to be healthy and know my baby probably won't spend time in the NICU.  (Although I do love the Unity Point NICU staff.  They were great!)  So celebrate with us that this pregnancy is going so well!