Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Delicious Start

Every Thanksgiving, I try to make a special breakfast for my family. We don't usually have dinner until late afternoon, and so I figure a big late breakfast is necessary to tide us over.

This year, I heard of this idea from NPR - Pumpkin Bread French Toast!

You start with a spiced pumpkin bread (I use my friend Lolly's famous recipe):

Then you cook it just like you would any french toast. Top with maple syrup and wah lah! A very sweet start to a wonderful holiday!
Carter inhaled it!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Giving Thanks

When I was growing up, my mom used to cover up one of the doors in the house with paper and each of us would write or draw on there what we were thankful for each Thanksgiving. This year, I decided to carry on that tradition with my own kids! They thought it was a hoot getting to "write on the wall" (now let's hope they realize that they can't actually write on the wall anywhere else...).

Carter drew pictures of his family, a Bakugan, and he asked me to draw the world. He also asked Ace to draw him a "skinny elephant" - and the significance of that is completely lost on me, but you can't squelch their creative spirit ;) Bennett made some scribbles, and just like his talking, we have no idea what he means.

Ace put some "odd" things to be thankful for, but I guess that is his prerogative. It was a really fun activity to do together as a family though and I think we'll continue this tradition through the years.

Do you have any particular Thanksgiving traditions you do with your family?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Mr. Not-So-Sleepy Pants

From these pictures, you would think that Carter was a great sleeper, right?


He used to be a fabulous sleeper. Than, when I was in the hospital on bed rest (yes, over 20 months ago...), he started sleeping with Ace in our bed. No big deal. Poor kid was away from his momma!

When I came home from the hospital, I gave him a few nights, then started the process of moving him back to his bed. In essence, I bribed him. I bought him a few much-coveted pieces to his Imaginext Jungle (by the way, jungle is out and Bakugan is now in), by rewarding him every few nights if he stayed in his bed. And it worked for a good while!

Then, somehow, I don't know exactly how, he made his way back into our bed. I rarely even wake up anymore when he comes in!

But that isn't even the full of it. Nope. The kid now has the hardest time actually going to sleep! It does not matter what time I put him down at night - 8:00, 8:30, 9:00, 9;30 - he will not fall asleep prior to 10:00 p.m. He's been known to still be awake at midnight on occasion!

That is problematic when you consider that he has to wake up by 7:00 a.m. (ideally). At his age, a child should be getting 9 to 13 hours of cumulative sleep. He rarely ever naps during the day anymore, so his 9 hours at night just don't cut it. So, to compensate, to the detriment of my own schedule, I usually let him sleep in. The kid will sleep until 9 a.m. some days if I let him! Since I aim to arrive at work by 9 a.m., and preschool starts at 9 a.m., that obviously does not work as a matter of course.

So, what to do? I've tried putting white noise in his room, music, a nightlight, no light, no books, books, threats, conjoling, bribery. I tell him "you only grow while you sleep, so if you want to be as big as your Uncle Mike [the tallest member of our family], you better go to sleep fast!!!" Nada.

I don't so much mind if he is in our bed every once in a while. I realize he is growing up all too fast, and I rather enjoy cuddling with him some nights (when his toes aren't up my nose...). But the kid does need more sleep. I just don't know how to get him to achieve it!


Friday, November 20, 2009

Conversations with Carter: Where Babies Come From

It is common knowledge that four-year olds are chock full of deep and profound questions. As they get older and older, it gets trickier and trickier to satisfy them with answers. I try my best to provide him with as accurate and truthful answers possible, yet age appropriate.

Here is a dialogue from a recent conversation that occurred on our morning drive to preschool:

Carter: Mommy, how do babies get in your belly?

Me: Well, when God decides that he wants a mommy and a daddy to have a baby, he takes a part of the mommy and a part of the daddy and puts them together to create a baby, and puts that baby into the mommy's belly. The baby starts out very teeny tiny small and then grows big. When its big enough, the baby comes out!

Carter: How does God put it in your belly? Kind of like magic?

Me: Yes, Carter, very much like magic! (wink, wink)

Carter: And then, how does the baby get out?

Me: Well, there are two ways a baby can come out. The first way is that the muscle that holds the baby squeezes the baby out of the mommy and the mommy pushes the baby out of her girl part. Kind of like going #2. The other way, which is how you were born, is the doctor can make a cut on the bottom of the mommy's baby and take the baby out through the cut.

Carter: Wow, I can't wait to tell my friends that mommy's poop their babies out!

Me: Well, kind of, that's one way. But you probably shouldn't talk to your friends about that because that is something their mommies and daddies need to tell them about.

Carter: Mommy, I want you to have another baby. But my choice is that you squeeze the baby out your girl part. I don't want the doctor to cut you, because that hurts! That's my choice.

Me: Mine too, Carter, mine too...

Carter: My friends are not going to BELIEVE this!!!

Me: (Thinking to self - oh great, I can't wait for that call from the teacher...)

Thankfully, no calls from school (or irate parents), yet!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

National Prematurity Awareness Day: Some Scars Never Fade

You know our story. My water broke when I was 24 weeks pregnant with my second son Bennett. Bennett did a kick-butt job of staying put, beyond all odds imaginable, until he decided at 30 weeks gestation that he'd had enough. He was born ten weeks early.

I've told you all before about the medical challenges Bennett has faced - the severe respiratory distress syndrome that later turned into bronchopulmonary dysplasia (chronic lung disease), his acute anemia, the severe calcium deficiency, and a slew of other more minor issues. So, what I want to tell you about today is the part of prematurity that most do not know about. The emotional scars. I thank the Lord daily that Bennett will not remember those very difficult times. But we do. His mommy, daddy, big brother, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and friends - those of use who peered in at him through the tiny hole of the isolette for weeks and weeks on end. Those of us who held our breaths, both in awe and fear. We all shed tears. That is our burden to carry, and gladly we shall, so that this precious little one never has to.

But there are some scars that do not fade.

The scars left when the neonatologist warns you merely minutes before you are wheeled into the operating room that your baby's lungs may be too compromised to survive. That the best case scenario she expects is that he will be a ventilator, and the worst case is that his lungs are too underdeveloped and brittle from the lack of amniotic fluid to be ventilated.

The scar that is left upon a mother who gets to see her newborn baby for only a few seconds before he is whisked away to a fate yet unknown. Who does not get to see her baby, aside from photographs, for the following 22 hours because neither he nor she is stable enough. Who does not get to hold her baby for the first time until he is a week old.

Scars that are left from the sight of one's child on life support, with countless wires and tubes coming out of them. Of not remembering what your child's face looks like, because you only caught a brief glimpse of it before it was covered up for weeks by tubes and tape. Of not knowing from day to day what will happen, and knowing that at any moment, things could turn for the worse.

The scars that are left on a family divided for months. From trying to explain to a big brother why he can only see his baby once a week for only a few minutes at a time, and that the baby is too sick to be touched. From trying to be brave for that big brother and assure him that everything will be ok, when you yourself aren't so sure you are telling the truth.
The scars that are left from doing the "preemie dance" for 9 long weeks - because just when things seem like they are getting better and you are making progress, your baby suffers a major set back. From going home night after night knowing that you are leaving your newborn baby alone in a box with strangers.
Scars that are left from finally getting to bring your baby home at 9 weeks old, but knowing that he still needs oxygen supplementation to breathe and a monitor to make sure he doesn't stop breathing. From the looks that strangers give you when they see your baby like this. And later on, the strange looks people give you when you tell them how old your child is, but he looks half his age.
The other day, I was looking at Bennett's heels, examining the physical scars that were left from the countless hundreds of cuts that were made to collect blood from him, sometimes hourly, while he was in the NICU. The scars are so faded now, that unless you knew they were there, you probably would not notice them. I am thankful that the physical scars are all but gone now. But, all too aware, a year and a half out, that some scars will never fade.
But, I want to tell you the joys too! Oh the JOY! Joys I never would have experienced in the same way if Bennett had been born a healthy full term child. Joys I didn't experience with nearly the same intensity when my first son Carter was born healthy and full-term.
The joy and relief we felt when we heard our son cry!!! upon birth!
The extreme joy that we felt when we finally got to hold our newborn baby a whole week after he was born!
The joy and awe of seeing one of God's real-life-living-breathing MIRACLES on this earth! And he's ours!
That intense and unyielding joy you can feel only upon the occassion of bringing your newborn baby into your home at 9 weeks old. Of finally being together as a family! Of not having to make those midnight drives to and from the hospital ever again!
The joy of taking him for a pulmonology appointment and seeing that he was saturating 99% oxygen on his own!
The joy we felt when he finally fit into a size 0-3 month outfit at 4 months old!
The JOY we felt when he smiled at us for the first time at 18 weeks old!!!! And the heightened joy and awareness of the gift of each successive milestone - rolling over, sitting up, standing, walking, the first word!
Oh, the joy that comes from looking at my happy and thriving toddler and knowing that I have been blessed beyond comprehension and measure.
So, please, let's fight together so that fewer babies have to endure such struggles and fewer families have to suffer so much pain. Pain that cuts deep and never completely goes away!!!

National Prematurity Day: Did you know?

In honor of Prematurity Awareness Day, I will be posting a series of blogs on this topic throughout the day. I ask that you join me in spreading awareness of the crisis of pregnancy and share information with the ones you love. If you feel called to do something, please consider donating to the March of Dimes' Fight for Preemies to aid in their life-saving research.
Before my own son was born ten weeks too soon, I knew very little about prematurity. I had no idea the long-lasting health and developmental repercussions that came with premature birth. Nor did I realize just how sick and fragile these precious babies start out. I certainly had no idea that so many lost the battle. That is why I want to share that information with you.
Did you know....
That 1 out of every 8 babies born in the United States will be premature (born before 37 weeks gestation)? That's 12.5% of all babies. 1,400 babies born premature every day. The only continent with a worst prematurity rate than North America is Africa.
That the prematurity rate has risen by 36% in the last 25 years? The only "good" news about that is the rise has been mostly attributable to an increase in late preterm births between 34 and 36 weeks gestational age.
That prematurity is the single greatest cause of perinatal death? Nearly 28% of babies who die in the first month, die from complications of prematurity.
That of the 13 Million Babies born this year worldwide, an astonishing 1 Million will die?
That only 17% of babies born at 23 weeks survive?
That only 39% of babies born at 24 weeks survive?
That only 50% of babies born at 25 weeks survive?
That most doctors will not intervene medically to help a baby born before 24 weeks?
That the youngest preemie to survive was born at 21 weeks and 5 days gestation and the smallest preemie to ever survive was only 9.9 ounces and 9.5 inches long at birth?
That ten percent of those born premature will develop a permanent disability such as chronic lung disease (my son Bennett), cerebral palsy, blindness or deafness?
That half of all babies born before 26 weeks gestational age are disabled?
That some of the most common complications a preemie born before 34 weeks gestational age include respiratory distress syndrome (RDS), bleeding in the brain, patent ductus ateriosus (PDA), necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC - an infection of the bowel), and retinopathy of prematurity (ROP - the nerves in the eyes grow through the retinas and can lead to vision loss)?
That the risks of prematurity persist even after the baby is "ok" and into adulthood? Preemies are much more likely to be infertile, much more likely to suffer learning disabilities and more likely to die at an earlier age.
Yes, prematurity is a BIG problem indeed.
So, what can you do???
1. Support the March of Dimes. The March of Dimes has funded and supported research that has led to amazing tools to fight prematurity. Two of the most amazing accomplishments include the use of surfactant (an enzyme which is injected into the lungs of babies with respiratory distress to keep the lungs from collapsing, since many preemies cannot produce surfactant on their own) and the use of steroids to quickly advance the baby's lung development when a mother is at acute risk of delivering premature.
2. Educate yourself on the signs and symptoms of pre-term labor, pre-ecclampsia, preterm rupture of membranes, placental abruption - some of the main causes of premature birth.
3. Take folic acid even if you are not planning on getting pregnant, and definitely for a full year before you plan to try to conceive! A recent study showed a huge decrease in the rates of very premature births in women who took folic acid for a full year before they conceived!! How easy is that!?
Let's band together and get this information OUT in the hopes that TOGETHER we can reduce the risk of prematurity. No baby should have to suffer so much so early. Every baby deserves the best start possible!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Be Fruitful & Multiply

The religion of reproduction.

So, I don't know what prompted it, but for the past few weeks, perhaps months, the whole sticky issue of my religion's teachings on reproduction and birth control have been meandering in and out of my thoughts.

I'm Catholic. I guess I ought to tell you how I became Catholic, so you can properly put my thoughts into context. My parents were Catholic and baptized me Catholic as a very young child. When my parents divorced and remarried, I was raised from about age 3 on by a WONDERFUL woman, who I call my mom as well, who was Lutheran. For a good part of my childhood, we attended the Lutheran church. Then, I'm guessing around the time I was in middle school, my parents couldn't find a Lutheran church they liked in the area we lived. So, we began to visit many different churches, and if memory serves me correctly, I think we ended up attending non-denominational churches for the remainder of my unbringing. My (step) Mom is a deeply spiritual woman who I look up to with great admiration. She is also an apologist and fervently studies the Bible in detail and thinks critically about the purpose and teachings behind each passage. So, this is how I was raised on "religion."

Bible study for me is, while primarily a spiritual exercise, it is also very much an intellectual exercise as well. I dissect and compare and juxtapose until I usually end up with more questions than I have answers.

My husband and his entire family is Catholic. I followed my husband (only my boyfriend at the time) to Mount Saint Mary's University for college and took several courses in theology there. I was left with a deep impression of the spirituality and tradition of the Catholic Church while I was a student there, and decided to be confirmed a Catholic. I went through RCIA under the spiritual leadership of an amaaaazing Sister, who was also a professor of the school. I wrestled with a lot of the doctrine of the Catholic Church, but always seemed to find an explanation that somehow satisfied me. Apparently, heresy is out and prayerful dissent is "in."

So, back to the subject matter... Shortly after we got married, we decided to follow Church doctrine of not using artificial birth control. It was kind of an easy decision to make, since we decided to start trying to get pregnant pretty much on the plane back from our honeymoon. Since then, I've only taken birth control for very short periods of time when I needed to for medical reasons. As it also turns out, I don't get pregnant very easily. So, the more natural methods of birth control work rather well for me.

But, the Catholic Church takes the doctrine even a step further. Aside from abstinence, any efforts to prevent procreation is a sin. A mortal sin. Yikes. That's a tough bit of information for a 21st century woman to swallow. As the website explains, the doctrine is derived from the following Bible passage:
Coitus interruptus, was used by Onan to avoid fulfilling his duty according to the ancient Jewish law of fathering children for one’s dead brother. "Judah said to Onan, ‘Go in to your brother’s wife, and perform the duty of a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother.’ But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so when he went in to his brother’s wife he spilled the semen on the ground, lest he should give offspring to his brother. And what he did was displeasing in the sight of the Lord, and he slew him also" (Gen. 38:8–10).

I guess my hang-up here is that this passage seems to be to be more about breaking an ancient Jewish law that required a brother-in-law to father children for his deceased brother's wife than about reproductive practices between a married couple... I mean, no one follows that law anymore (right???)! So, I'm having difficulty making the jump the Church asks us to make.

I do believe God wants us as Christians to increase his kingdom by bringing Christian children into the world. I guess, I just want to do that on my own timing. And with the number of children my husband and I believe works well for our family and our plans.

But then, I think about the quiverful movement, which has been widely publicized lately by the Duggar family. Its easy to judge the sanity of such people, since very few of us could ever imagine having more than a few kids ourselves. But, what if they are on to something?

The Bible does say, "be fruitful and multiple" (in several different places, in case you missed it the first time). Thinking in mathematical terms, this means you should have more than two children right? Because two children merely replaces the parents and does nothing by way of multiplying. So, what is the appropriate number?

Yes, I know, I think too much. I don't expect to find an "answer" nor anything remotely reaching a consensus among thoughtful Christians. Its just one of the ponderables I ponder and try to iron out for myself. But you, my loyal and faithful blog readers, are always very thoughtful and have a wide range of views - so what do you think about all this?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Watching Words

A very vivid memory has been haunting my thoughts today.

On Friday, March 21, 2008, the day I turned 24 weeks pregnant, I had a conversation with a co-worker, another attorney at my firm, about my pregnancy. I exclaimed to him that I felt like I had been pregnant FOREVER, and did not know how I would last another 16 weeks. My co-worker agreed that indeed it did seem as if my pregnancy was progressing rather slowly.

(In my defense, I suffered hyperemesis for the first 20 or so weeks, so every day during that time felt like seven.)

On Saturday, March 22, 2008, I was standing at my kitchen counter assembling a lasagna, when I felt the unmistakable sensation of my water breaking. I was 24 weeks and 1 day pregnant.

Many times over the ensuing months that followed, my words to my co-worker have echoed in the recesses of my mind. And while I know that what happened was a fluke - nothing I did caused it - I cannot help but having that sickening feeling of dreadful guilt over my comments.

So now, every time I hear a pregnant woman make similar, perfectly normal and common statements, my stomach falls to my feet and I want to scream - NO!!! Don't say that! Don't even dare think it. Because it just might come true.

I know, I never in a million years thought it would happen to me either.

So What Next?

Alright, Book Clubbers! What do we want to read next? Post suggestions!

That's an order :)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Book Club: The Heretic's Daugther Discussion Post

Ok, book-clubbers! It is that time again. Actually, its past the date I had set, but I needed a bit of an extension and forgot to tell ya'll about it :)
This month, we read The Heretic's Daugther by Kathleen Kent. The book was set in a town not far from Salem, Mass. at the time of the Salem Witch Trials. I thought it would be a seasonly-appropriate book for Halloween.
So, let's give it a stab and DISCUSS!
1. What was your overall impression of the book? Love it? Hate it? Stopped reading in the middle of it? (ahem, Patty!)
2. What do you think of the character development? Were there any characters that you felt the author should have spent more time on? What about the main character Sarah?
3. Who were the "villians" of the story?
4. How did Tom's history play into the story?
5. If your mom had given you the opportunity to divulge all your complaints to her at the age of 12, would you have done it? Why do you think Sarah didn't want to?
6. What shocked you most about this book?
7. Did this book change your mind about the Salem Witch Trials and the people accused?
8. If you were Martha Carrier, would you have "confessed," or stood your ground to the truth even though you knew you would die for it?
9. If you were Sarah, would you have "confessed" or given testimony against your mother?
10. Closing thoughts?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Bennett is 18 months old!!!

Well, as of yesterday - I'm a little slow.

Here are his 18 month stats:
Weight - 19 lbs 6 oz - 0.3th percentile
Length - 30'' - 3.3th percentile
Head - 47'' - 20th percentile!!

Some news and happenings with Little B -

Last week, his developmental nurse declared that he has fully caught up to his adjusted age for fine and gross motor skills, and is about 80% caught up to actual age, so she discharged him from physical therapy.

He is, however, at about the level of a 12 month old in speech, so he will begin speech therapy very soon. He says "dada," "Ace" and "light." The thing they are most concerned about is he doesn't say "mama" and doesn't have any "word" for use in referencing me or Carter at all. They think he may have some low muscle tone in his mouth making it difficult for him to form words. Receptive language seems to be very good, as he will point to objects on the page when asked, and follows commands. They are also having us do some electrical stimulation of his cheek muscles and tongue to help strenghten them. We just use an electric toothbrush and massage, and he loves it!

He needs to see a pediatric dentist soon b/c his teeth aren't properly developing. They are very sharp and some of them are brown and very soft. The Ped said the brown spots are very common in preemies with respiratory problems, as it signals oxygen deprivation, and it usually doesn't cause any problems with the adult teeth. However, Bennett has always had very low calcium levels, because babies get the majority of the calcium they need in the last 2 months of pg for bone and tooth development, and he was 2.5 mons early. He's been on calcium supplements since birth, and the labs show that his bone development is good (whereas before he was borderline Ricketts). But the Ped. said the body prioritized and the teeth got the short end of the distribution. She isn't sure what the dentist will want to do, but said in some cases they put an enamel coating over the teeth to strengthen them and prevent break-off. Its not "urgent" that he sees the dentist right away, but we should do so before he is two.

His last opthamology exam was excellent and his retinas have developed beautifully and his sight is perfect for his age!! So, it looks like we are out of the woods for the usual preemie vision problems, at least for now. He doesn't need to go back for another year! WOOT!

The Ped. said Bennett is maintaining a good growth velocity, but his weight to height ratio is starting to skew a little more. She suggested that we add olive oil to his food for more fat and calories. He's a great eater and drinks about 20 ounces of whole milk a day and nurses twice a day still. He could use a little more meat on his bones though, and he is VERY active now that he's mastered the art of walking (and climbing and causing mischief of all varieties)!!! I REALLY thought he was going to break the 20 lb mark this visit, so I was a tad disappointed. Oh well.

Sorry for the novel. Here is your reward:

Aunt Gen teasing him with a giant tennis ball that doesn't bounce:
Of course, he has to play soccer too!


Our 'Lil Punkin'