I can’t believe how fast the last nearly 6 weeks have blown by. And thankfully, things have gotten much better since I wrote my last post when I announced the birth of my son, my fourth child and first preemie, my first week as a mom of a baby in the NICU, so I thought I’d do a little update.
How I’m doing
I still feel like I’m living in an alternate universe, a new life I never expected, but I’ve accepted it and I’m making it, day by day. Things that aren’t important to me and my family right now have fallen away, and that just feels right. I have felt a little guilt neglecting my blog, helping others, my activism, because I’ve gotten so much support from everyone around the world these last 6-weeks, but I don’t have any spare energy or time for it so it must be put on hold while I focus on my family. I’m feeling like my old self again, emotionally, postpartum healing wise, and energy level. I guess it was easier for my body to recover since I only made it to 24 weeks in my pregnancy, not the full 40 or more weeks. I’m 10 or so pounds up from my pre-pregnancy weight but it’s not weighing me down or making me feel tired, that I’m aware of. I feel much stronger now that I’m not bleeding so much from my hematoma. I am bleeding a little, just lochia, off and on some days, but nothing heavy or worrisome. I’m definitely in a better emotional space than I was weeks ago (I’m not bawling at the drop of a hat anymore) but I’m missing my mom more than ever (she’s been gone for 6 years now and I want to talk to her about her journey as a NICU mom of me thirty years ago) and I’m completely torn between two places – my home with husband and my three big kids and the home with my baby at hospital. I’m tired of my new routine, driving half an hour back and forth all the time, hours of driving when there’s awful traffic, but there’s nothing to be done about it except to just keep going. I wish I could live next to the hospital with my family for the next couple months to skip the driving and be able to walk over to see my baby anytime I needed. Figuring out the schedules on a daily basis for everyone is frustrating as well, when I can be with my baby, when I can hold him between the nurse’s schedules, when he has things planned, my husband’s work schedule, when I need to be home, etc. It’s draining. I’m used to only my own relaxed schedule with the kids and that’s it! I know it’ll calm down eventually though when all of this is behind us.
Besides the negative, I feel like I have so much to be thankful for. I am grateful that I don’t have to fight to see and hold my new baby, or have to stress about going back to work, insurance issues, or anything like that. I wake up each day and see what beauty there is in the world, the gorgeous spring flowers and weather here in northern California, my beautiful children, the love and support of my husband during all of this. My appreciation of the support I’ve received from my friends and family, loving people who have filled up my meal train and sent me grocery gift cards to keep my family fed, is immeasurable. I have enough friends and family to watch my kids a couple times a week so I can go to my son. We also hired a nanny for the first time ever, whom everyone likes, even my toddler, for help a couple times a week so I can go to my baby those days as well while my husband is working. My kids are healthy and adjusting fairly well, as well as I could hope, to not having me with them 24/7 like they’re used to, not having as much time with their friends and nature as before. But I know we’ll get back to our old routine in the summer. They really loved Easter this year, having Grandma stay with us for a week, and my 6 and 4-year-old had their first sleepover with their best friend just last night. And my big girl has her first loose tooth! Life keeps on going.
My big kids have such a bond with their new brother, even though they don’t get to see him every day. Here they are, peering outside his door the other day.
[My three big kids waiting to see their little brother.]
I wish they were all allowed inside at the same time with us so we could get a first family photo but unfortunately, only two of them are allowed at the bedside at a time.
I’m feeling pretty good about my ability to provide milk for my new baby. I’ve been able to maintain a decent milk supply, my baby has so much freezer back stock in the NICU, and pumping doesn’t hurt anymore. It was borderline painful the first week or so. My toddler, who is now a fresh 2-year-old, is still nursing so I don’t have to worry too much about my supply quitting before I start nursing my new baby. That’s a huge load off my mind, actually, because providing my new son with my milk during this critical time is huge. I really hope we’ll be able to have a successful breastfeeding relationship after he’s out as well.
I’m still feeling very protective of him, not wanting to share his name, photos, medical updates here like I do with my family, but I will say he’s doing well and I have nothing but hope that he’ll be coming home in another month and a half to two months. Even if he has to stay in the NICU through my due date, the 40 week mark of June 11th, I’ll still be happy. Or later. As long as he’s able to come home. He is now 29 weeks or 5 weeks old. It was a pretty stressful first four weeks. I wouldn’t do those weeks again for anything in the world. The emotions, feeling crushed, not being able to hold him…it was the worst. Every day there was something new when we walked into the NICU. He caught a couple hospital bugs, was put in isolation, had to be put on extra meds, his lungs got worse before they got better, he had lines everywhere…It was so much to take in with nothing but hope to keep me going. But the last week has been great. I was able to hold him starting at 4 weeks old when he got off the high frequency ventilator and back on the other type of assisted breathing machine with flexible tubing that he was on for his first few days before they switched him to HFV. Six days ago, he was put on a Nasal Cannula Intermittent Mandatory Ventilation (NC-IMV) and I’ve been holding him every day since, what feels like the best six days of my life, or at least for the couple hours I’m able to hold him a day. When I’m not holding him, I’m wishing I was, my body feels tethered to him. I’m looking forward to holding him more and more as he grows.
Here we are together, holding him for the first time since he was two days old. I had to wait 26 days.
[Holding my 4 week old preemie, 28 weeks old]
It’s wonderful to feel him on me, see him open his eyes, stretch out his arms and touch me. He stretched up yesterday and touched my face. I nearly cried. This weekend he’ll be at 30 weeks, or 6 weeks old, and hopefully a pound over his birth weight, landing him at 2lbs 6oz or so.
Look how tiny his little foot is!
[My son's foot at 1 month old in my hand]
All of his extra lines are out now, his picc as of yesterday, arterial line as of a few days ago, and spare IV, too. I hope he’s starting to feel less pain now. I have only heard a few squeaks as he’s tried to cry a couple times since they took his vent tube out. His throat is still healing. His plan right now is to grow, I hope. In a few more weeks, we’ll start “recreational breastfeeding” and although I’m nervous about how it’ll go, I’m still hopeful.
That’s it for now. I need some sleep!
Did you have a preemie or did your baby spend some time in the NICU? How did you make it through?
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One more photo. Skin to skin snuggles with my little preemie <3
[Kangaroo Care with my preemie son]
My little guy is 2lbs 9oz now at 6 weeks old / 30 weeks gestational age.
I’m finally able to hold him pretty much as much as I can now, as long as he’s happy – hours and hours a day! I could hold him from 4-6 weeks but only a limited amount with large spaces of time between holding. Now I can wake up, hold him for a few hours in the morning, put him back in his isolette for an hour or less, or longer if I need to go home, then hold him again for as long as we’re both fine, until I need to eat or use the restroom, and then again! One day this week, I held him for 9 hours. Yesterday, 7. It feels so right to have this skin-to-skin time with him, so healing, powerful.
We also moved to a room with a window this week and it’s wonderful. We were in a room with no windows or view of the outside world, for the whole stay up until now. It was a cave. I appreciated the darkness in the first room for my son’s eyes (when they’d actually turn off the lights) but I’m loving the change to a sunlit room where I can see the trees when I hold my baby and the natural light on his skin. My soul feels happy.
More good news. I’m finally finished with that super fun 30-day Facebook banishment (from my main personal account) for sharing a birth article on my Paa.la
page last month.