Take a break

Take a break. Run away with us for the summer

Lin Manuel Miranda

Last week. I did the seemingly impossible and took a break from the NICU. We were going on week six, and I had completely reached my limits as not only a mom but as a human being. Every night I was spending hours sobbing, crying every time my mom called me from Florida as well. My husband (who seriously is the best thing to ever happen to me) had been consistently urging me for weeks to take a few days off and go back to Tampa to see my house and my family. I of course was extremely against the idea. The baby wasn’t consistently stable, my anxiety over leaving him would seemingly be even worse than the feelings I was having spending every single day in intensive care. I could also just foresee all the mother shaming I would experience leaving my newborn a thousand miles away, and going off to see the sunshine state and visit my dogs.

But then I did something wild. I actually left. I didn’t think I would. The baby was more stable, we were seemingly in the home stretch of waiting. He had his dad, and in order for me to heal and succeed as a person and as a new mom, I had to go. I had to leave. I had to take five minutes to get my mental health in order, and have some semblance of normalcy. On day 122 of being away from home I turned to Jesse before bed and I said, “I have to go home.” My mother had said the exact same thing to me, and between the two of them I was convinced.

Tickets were bought, and I spent a little over 48 hours back in Florida. I got to see my nursery which had been completely designed and renovated while I was away (it is COMPLETELY stunning, my Mother-in-law and husband did and AMAZING job) I got to see my pets who seemed to have thought I had run away never to return. I got to see my HOUSE, and sleep in my BED, and drive my CAR. So many little things I had taken for granted when in town, and that were so healing and rejuvenating to me. Simple tasks like using my own kitchen and laundry room, sweeping my own floor, and eating food out of my own fridge was completely surreal. I went to Target and it was a completely spiritual experience. The week previous in Philadelphia I was having a hard time pumping milk, and my supply was really starting to dwindle. While in Florida my milk was up by about 2/3, probably just due to me feeling relaxed and in my own environment. I was able to sleep a full eight hours, run some last minute errands I needed for the baby, and pump a few days worth of milk to leave in the home freezer so we would have a slight back supply for our homecoming.

I think the only downside to me coming home briefly and re-charging was I felt embarrassed about it. I didn’t really tell many people it was happening, or see many of my family and friends for the very short time I was back, because not only was I VERY pressed for time, but I was worried what people would think. I was worried how people would feel, and perceive me as a mom. What kind of mother would leave her fresh baby, with all of his medical issues? How could she be so selfish? It hurt my heart to think what people would think about me. Mom shaming is a very real thing, and the standards new moms need to achieve are completely unattainable.

I have already felt the effects of mom shaming and my kid is barely a month old. But what people don’t realize that a big part of new motherhood tends to include losing yourself. Not on purpose, but just in the whirlwind of creating a new life, and one that requires a lot more care, we forget to think about ourselves for the most part, and unfortunately so do most people surrounding the new mom too. I had spent the last 122 days being, a vessel for life, a mother, and a patient, but I hadn’t spent many of those days feeling like an individual, and not very many of them feeling like “Laura.” The entire second half of my pregnancy was a clinical blur. I myself was healing from two abdominal surgeries, and even though I was trying to make my mental and physical health priorities, everyone around me, including myself was focused on the baby. Looking back to how I was feeling last week, and how I must have appeared to my loved ones, it is not shocking that they encouraged me to take a breather. Even just two days later I feel like a completely different person. Friends I talk to everyday have remarked even my written language seems more rested and positive, I seem very much more normal and level headed. Less depressed. A huge turn around.

I am now back with my son, and will be detailing our discharge story soon. I am back with him feeling like myself. I am Laura. I am a mom. I love my baby. However, I am also a person, and a human, with thoughts and feelings, a personality, an attitude, and an independent sense of self. He is my top priority but in order to care for him, I need to also take care of me. ❤

Its hard to be the “hard” friend

Embrace the glorious mess that you are

Elizabeth gilbert

Right now in my life, I am the hard friend.

We all have one of those, it usually cycles around between people in any particular circle. Lately, due to just the nature of my life and what has been going on, I am the hard friend. I have been the hard friend for months.

It is hard being the hard friend. For many reasons. First of being, that in order to be the hard friend, you have to be going through something difficult, and second being, people usually don’t know how to handle you. If someone in your life is in the hospital for a few days, its easier. Send them flowers, or a card, call them to check in, usually home within a few days etc. If a friend has a breakup, they usually occupy the hard friend spot for around a month or two, etc. When its months and months, or years and years is when it gets sticky.

People don’t know how to talk to me anymore. Between the baby, and the distance, and the medical and money turmoil. Even just having a baby can be isolating for many people, as their childless friends have different schedules and priorities. Younger friends still prioritize partying, drinking and dating. People tend to drift apart even in the most standard of parenting scenarios. This year has been insane for me, and people don’t know how to react. I get it. I have been on the other side of this coin. I have friends who have gone through problems and scenarios that I do not relate to. I am familiar with the anxiety of asking myself… “What do I say?”..”What can I do?” …. “What if I make it worse?” Unfortunately this anxiety usually lead to silence. People don’t know what to say and so… they just… don’t say anything. There is a certain fatigue in dealing with someone’s ongoing problems, especially when you cannot relate. It sparks an uncertainty in people that usually results in separation.

I am not writing this from an accusatory standpoint, or a high horse. Just expressing myself. I am not bitter, or angry. Just sad, and very tired. One usually has a circle who you think will be there for you no matter what, and then as you get older, or hit the REALLY big road bumps that circle seems to get smaller and smaller. This usually means that you embrace quality over quantity, however it doesn’t mean that it stings any less. It hurts. The messages spread out, until eventually they mostly disappear, the phone calls lessen.

That being said, Do I blame anyone? Its not like I am the best person to converse with right now. I’m going through a lot. I have mood swings. I have days when I feel really angry. I have days where I feel really depressed. I am not easy to be around right now. I am not the easy friend right now.

Right now I am not a quick beer after work.

I am not a movie date

I am not a jovial phone call

I am not the shoulder to lean on, most of my people have become accustomed to

I am not a lender of money

I am not a mirror selfie or a glam Instagram post from a girls brunch

I am a mess. I am tears at 3am. I am hospital coffee. I am living in the same four outfits. I am dirty hair and no makeup. I am under eye circles. I am gut wrenching sobs in the shower when I hope nobody else is awake.

Unfortunately messes need people the most. They require the most clean up.

I am working on becoming my own mop. ❤

The Never-ending Story

Time flies over us, but leaves its shadow behind

nathaniel Hawthorne

Yesterday marked four weeks since Corbin was born. We are now on week five of NICU. It feels never ending. Some days are very good, and some days are very NOT good. When the baby has a good day, I have a good day. I feel like that is a specific aspect of parenting that will never go away. All of the baby’s current issues, the ones keeping us from going home (That we know of) are due to his pre-maturity, and not his Spina Bifida. Everything related to his Spina Bifida currently is going as well as they could for the most part. We had a recent brain and spine MRI, that looked awesome. His Neuro surgeon was very happy with his brain scan, and his healing. He related that he wants to see us in six months, and then again at a year, to make sure kiddo is doing well.

He is getting the hang of oral feedings, but gets tired easily and so the amount isn’t consistent, which is a big thing the Neo-natologist will look for before we can go home. He was taken off all breathing assistance today, but we have made that step before to then be put back on 12 hours later. We had a really low saturation dip earlier this afternoon, and I am anxious about the same. They were unsure if it warranted putting him back on support or not. Tomorrow we are taking a class on how to replace and feed through NG tube, as we may be discharged with him still partly tube feeding, they also are up in the air about an apnea monitor. He is currently being casted for his club feet, and his feet were SO swollen and bruised this morning when they checked on him that they decided to give his little lets and feet a few days off to try and heal. They looked so painful, and while they didn’t look like they were bothering him, it broke this mom’s heart, and I am worried about it leading to skin breakage and or infection. That will push everything back even farther, and I dont want to push any orthopedic timeline back even further for the little guy. Overall today was wrought with a lot of steps both forwards and backwards, and I am feeling extremely frustrated.

Some positives today, the baby is now wearing adorable little outfits. He is allowed to have crib toys like soothers, and mobiles, which he loves! His favorite is a little Baby Einstein Aquarium that lights up, makes water movements, and plays classical music. He is awake more often now, which means we get a lot more eye open time, and can see his little smiling face and touch his chubby little cheeks. We are allowed to do more of his care now that he is hooked up to less equipment. I’ve never been so happy to change poopy diapers! We found a collection of baby books and have been able to read to him while he is awake, I especially love when my husband Jesse reads to him and does all the voices. It makes my heart explode to see them bonding, and the baby smile at the sound of his voice.

So there have been some positives this week! Lots of ups and lots of downs. I feel like a metronome with everything giving me whiplash. Emotional backs and forths, monitors constantly beeping, loud noises, no sleep. Lather, rinse, repeat. I am lucky he is in good hands, I am lucky he is safe, I just so badly want to be done with this chapter of our family experience. I want to flash forward to family dinners, and bedtime stories, and picnics, and swimming lessons, and be away from the constant hum of hospital monitors, and the lingering smell of hand sanitizer.

We have been in discussion with the Nurse practitioners about discharge timeline. We are going to get lessons on the monitors and NG tubes in case we have to go home with them. I would really prefer not to, which could also mean more time in NICU, so its all very overwhelming. Do we go home with monitors, so that we get to go home. Do we stay longer. What do we do.

I feel like I live in limbo. I so badly want to take the next step.

Please be strong baby, I love you! You are doing amazing, mommy just wants to go home and start our life together. You are incredible. ❤

Posture

My neck, my back (lick it)

KHIA

Obviously the quote above is meant to be a joke, and warning in advance today’s blog is going to be a bit of a vent session. So if you aren’t interested in me being a whiny baby, I apologize.

Lets talk about boobs. We all have them (Well… about half of the population anyway) Breast pumping post pregnancy has been very difficult. I was attempting to pump within one hour of Corbin being born, per the recommendation of our lactation specialist. The first two to three days I was pumping every two hours, even through the night in order to try and stimulate milk supply, because not only was my baby in the NICU and not physically with me, but also my body was supposed to be pregnant for seven more weeks, and wasn’t quite ready to start that process so soon. My body was very confused. Luckily by mid week I was producing droplets, and then colostrum, and then milk for the baby! Which was great. I am still pumping every three hours or so, and Ill take a slightly longer break overnight for about 4.5 hours so I can attempt to get some REM sleep, but overall I am very tired, literally… all the time. The first few days between the lack of sleep and the post C-Section drugs I felt like I was having hallucinations. Those day are literally a blur, and I have pockets of lost time that I do not remember at ALL.

As any of my fellow moms can attest, when your milk finally comes in, it is… a little overwhelming. I have always been a chesty person, so to go up at least one cup size overnight was really shocking. I kept looking in the mirror, bewildered and having a mini episode of body dis-morphia. I remember showing my husband and his exact words were “Oh good lord, what are those, and what happened to you?!” As of now, luckily I have been able to supply enough milk to the NICU to feed the baby. Which is awesome and I am very proud of, but its hard to keep the supply up without being with your baby all the time. As that is what normally gives your body its cues, and as of today I have been unable to try to nurse nipple to mouth. The baby is still getting a small amount of breathing support and until his tube is out we cannot work on latching. So I pump, all the time, constantly to try and combat that.

My posture has been… TERRIBLE. Posture is something I already actively work on in my normal non displaced pregnancy life every day. My mother has told me to put my shoulders back everyday since childhood, my dance teachers would always yell at me, etc. In my 20s I started doing yoga fairly regularly, which helped a LOT, but I have been unable to work out since fetal surgery. I also work an office job, so back in FL, I would try and stretch consistently to avoid lower back pain or hunching related to working in front of a screen everyday. Since beginning to pump… my posture has been… completely awful. Between the heaviness of my breasts, fatigue, and just the placement of the suction cups I look like a hunched over witch, or a hag. I look like the old woman who tried to convince Snow White to eat the poison apple.

Last night my back hurt so terribly that it was hard to sleep. I cried out of exhaustion and frustration because I couldn’t sleep due to the pain, and then by the time I maybe would nod off my alarm would go off to pump again, and of course, pumping really hurt, and then my back would hurt again. Lather, rinse, repeat. After about round three of this, I shuffled over and fought through the fog of exhaustion to take some Ibuprofen. and got down on the floor to try and do some yoga stretching hoping that would help. My husband eventually woke up to my tears, and like the rock star he is, he tried to give me a back rub and massage out some tension around 4:30 am. Eventually I fell asleep again, and awoke around five hours later, which then caused another hormonal breakdown and panic because I was sure that taking TWO 4+ hour breaks between pumping would dry up my supply (Something that had seemed to dip over the last week anyway) and I would be ruining my chances of breast feeding long term due to this back pain issue, and me not waking up in time to pump again. I felt like I was sabotaging all my weeks of hard work, because said hard work was making me tired and grumpy and physically spent.

So what is the point of this blog? Nothing other than an outlet for today’s post.

I am tired. My entire body hurts. After this I am going to go back to my cycle of child’s pose, cat and cow position. Trying to stretch everything out. I took one of my remaining “good pills” given to me after C-Section, which I was trying to save in case of an emergency or a really bad day. I guess last night and today was said day. I will also attempt not to cry again until at least tomorrow (no promises!) Later on I will go see my baby and none of this will seem as important, because he lights up my heart and my mood every time I see his little face. He is worth all the hard work, and the late nights. but.. MAN. Being a mom is no joke. For all my exclusively pumping or breast feeding moms… kudos to you. This is some HARD WORK.

If anyone has any good stretches or advice, the comment section is open.

NICU

Sometimes it’s okay if all you did today was breath.

Anonymous

Tomorrow baby Corbin will be 3 weeks old. Three entire weeks! I cant believe it! Time is basically meaningless to me as I have been in a perpetual cycle of pump/nap/pump/visit baby/pump-repeat over the past twenty days. The longest stretch of sleep I get is between three to four hours, as I am trying to keep my milk supply up so that the nurses constantly have enough for him to feed on, since I cant nurse at this time until he is off of breathing support. This little guy is a fighter, we are still working on breathing consistently on our own, as well as gaining some weight, and feeding by mouth. The last few days he has made TREMENDOUS progress, but last week was ROUGH.

When the baby has a bad day…. MOMMY has a bad day. I spent most of last week sobbing, especially at night. It is so hard to not have my baby with me at night. I know he is in the best care possible, and even though we are only a mile away at the Ronald Mcdonald house, it feels like a continent away to this new mom. I cannot wait until I can bring him home to his little room, and to his house, and introduce him to his loving family and pets. The days when he struggles to breathe and I watch his monitors fluctuate, cause me a lot of anxiety, and I have spent many a day crying in the lobby of the CHOP NICU. Luckily our care team is completely amazing and I am constantly checked on by our social workers, nurses and coordinators. These feelings are valid, these feelings are normal, what I am feeling is alright, and taking care of myself is okay. As much as I want to constantly be by the baby, many people have encouraged me to rest while I can. These are the BEST babysitters in the world, right? But my pumping schedule keeps me from resting TOO much, although I try. The time has made it possible for Jesse and I to make lots of phone calls, and work on transition of care when we go home to FL, and try and get our many ducks in a row while the baby is still in the hospital. Lots and lots of appointments in our future!

A lot of people have asked me how I feel, and I don’t know how to answer them. My primary feeling right now is … exhaustion. I am tired. I am weary, and am running out of steam. I feel as though I have been strong, and holding everything together for months now, and without my baby able to be with me I feel like I am getting closer and closer to falling apart. Its like I had a stored amount of energy and strength and its slowly dwindling. I feel like a daisy at the end of a long summer, as it succumbs to the heat and moisture and begins to wilt and rot. I am consistently reminded that I am SO CLOSE to the finish line. I am a super mom. I can do this.

I can do this.

I can do this

I can do this.

Right??

Independence Day

Well Everyone…What a crazy few weeks we have had! The baby came! Surprise! Our C section was scheduled for the 30th, but our little guy came early, on his own schedule on July 4th, 2019. The picture featured above is the first one taken by my husband after his grand debut! My water broke unexpectedly in the very early morning of the 4th, and by 11am EST we had decided to go ahead and get him out! Little Corbin Angel was born midday around 1:47 pm EST, and we instantly fell in love.

Mommy spent three days inpatient in that SDU and then was released back to the Ronald Mcdonald House. I am feeling pretty good all things considered. Between pumping milk every two hours, and shuttling back and forth to the NICU, I am remiss that it has taken this long to give you all an update! But despite his early arrival, baby is doing very well. He was born at a good weight, Five Pounds and six ounces, his heart and brain are looking great, and we are working on breathing and eating on our own, which is common with premature babies of this gestational age. So far we are emptying both bowels and bladder very well, and our labs have all looked really good! He came out crying, and moving BOTH LEGS! This is especially amazing, as pre birth we were really not sure what his functional mobility would be at in one of his legs. Little one is already crushing expectations and making his parents very proud. We are waiting to be released from the NICU pending certain milestones, and working on transferring his care and making phone calls down in Florida to make sure everything is ready Doctor wise for when we get to go home.

HOME… H-O-M-E… I am SO EXCITED. I cannot WAIT TO GO HOME. I want more than anything to be home with my baby, it makes my heart ache. Our NICU stay, while mild in comparison to many other families, has been so hard on me emotionally. Probably a mix between situational stress, postpartum hormones, and general feelings of displacement and home sickness, I have been quite a mess. I was so used to having my little one… literally inside me and with me at all times, that the transition to having him sleep not only away from me, but in the hospital and hooked up with tubes and monitors was very jarring. Some days are better than others. Some days I am fine, and continue to keep it all together and be a strong mama. Other days I am embarrassed to say that I cry for hours, and get emotional over the distance between me and my baby, and my home. I want so much to be able to nurse him, and take him back to see his family, and puppy brothers and to be back in our family home and town. We are probably in for several more weeks of waiting and NICU time before that is possible, and I am hanging on by a thread. I know I need to suck it up and remember that in the grand scheme of things a few weeks is the blink of an eye, but I just so badly want this chapter to be over. I feel like my entire pregnancy has led to this moment, and I want to be able to move on with our lives (Well at least until we come back for his yearly check up) Everything feels so.. clinical currently, and I am so emotional and in mommy mode and the two just are not meshing.

This kiddo is… CUTE. I know I am biased, but I am TELLING YOU he is the cutest little thing. (Pic below) I never knew I could instantly love another person as much as I love this little guy. I hope he always knows how much I love and would do anything for him. I would go to the ends of the earth for this tiny and perfect human. His smile melts my heart, and sometimes when I look at him I burst into tears. Not out of sadness but out of pure aw and appreciation. I just cant believe he is real, and here, and in my life. Welcome to the world my little Corbin! You are in for a wild ride my love!

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Holland?

Today was our last day of the Mama Care pre-natal class at CHOP, and it was a surprisingly emotional afternoon. I didn’t expect to be so sad it was ending, and I didn’t expect the subject matter to hit me so much today. I think I cried a total of three times, even though it was a relatively GOOD day. The following bit of writing was not written by myself, but was shared by one of our Midwives, and it was all the words I wanted to express but didn’t know how to. I’m glad someone DID though, because now I can direct them to the same.

So if you were ever one of those people who wanted to ask, “Laura, how are you feeling?” “What is going through your head?” “This seems SO hard, what are you going through emotionally?” See below…

WELCOME TO HOLLAND

by
Emily Perl Kingsley.

c1987 by Emily Perl Kingsley. All rights reserved

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability – to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It’s like this……

When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip – to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.”

“Holland?!?” you say. “What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.”

But there’s been a change in the flight plan. They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay.

The important thing is that they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It’s just a different place.

So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

It’s just a different place. It’s slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around…. and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills….and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy… and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.”

And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away… because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.

But… if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things … about Holland.