As of tomorrow my little baby Angel will be FIVE MONTHS OLD. I cannot believe it! If you had asked me even three months ago, still in NICU how I would be feeling at this moment, I would not even know what to say. It all felt so un-ending, and while I have anxiety over some upcoming neurosurgery appointments, overall I am going into the winter holiday season in a great mood. It is hard some days, to not dwell on how hard things were at the beginning, I almost feel like I am waiting for the other foot to drop. I think that is a voice that all special needs parents hear in the back of their head from time to time.
“Oh he is doing so great!” …….For NOW
“He is making so much progress” …….Just you wait
I think I am so pleased with how great he has been doing, and how amazing his care has been, but am realistic enough to know that we will not be without struggle and complications. Do I delude myself into thinking everything is perfect, knowing that the rug will eventually come out from under me? Or do I be more realistic and attempt to not let that snowball into pessimism.
I think that I just need to take everything one day at a time. With each appointment, and physical therapy session, and bill, and phone call, I need to just take a deep breath and live in the moment. I need to enjoy my baby while he is a baby. I need to get those late night, and early morning cuddles, and play peek a boo.
Baby seems to recognize faces a lot better now. Which has been so nice, as I was worried about going back to work, and losing our connection. When his Daddy or I pick him up from the grandparents in the afternoon he greets us with smiles and squeals! He is getting along better with his puppy brothers, and the cat is starting to explore his room, and decide that they are at least neutral. He is such a happy and joyful little boy, and so full of life.
The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities
So after three months of medical leave, and twenty weeks of maternity leave I am finally going back to work a week from tomorrow. I don’t quite know how to describe how I feel about it, as the thought of leaving my medically complex child at home, and commuting to work, and working my 9-5 job as if it was normal is blowing my mind. My son has changed my entire world view, my entire schedule, and all of my priorities. I feel like I have finally settled into my daily routine of being a new mom, as well as a special needs mom, and now its going to be flipped upside down once again. It took until this week to get all of his initial doctor visits, many rounds of casting, Physical therapy, a follow up surgery, and a new medication schedule, all finished. I feel like I handled all the hard stuff, and all the logistical nightmares just in time to send him off to his grandparents to have fun everyday. I realize those things were all necessities, but its an emotional challenge to do all the hard stuff, and organizing, and then go back to work knowing that he is finally ready for things like, the zoo, play dates and library story times. Unfortunately all of those kid friendly activities are scheduled during the day, for stay at home moms, nanny’s, and grandparents to enjoy. As a working mom, I will now see my child eight hours less a day, constantly be judged, and miss out on all of the “Mommy and me” classes. Not going to lie, it breaks my heart.
In reality I know I have to go back to work. Its a necessity. My job is what provides the baby’s medical insurance, which he desperately needs, as we live in a state where we do not qualify for any assistance related to his condition. My benefits are the most important thing to keep stable for him to continue being treated by his stellar team of specialists, and get the therapies he needs. I so wish that I could stay home with him, and be his weekday primary care giver, and ALSO keep my amazing insurance, but that just is not possible. I will state for the record, I like my job. I like my co workers, and I think I will enjoy interacting with adults and getting recognized for my abilities and successes as a human being, and not just a mother. There are definitely pros to going back to work, but right now is all seems so terrible and overwhelming. With eight less hours available in my day, it also means I have less time for housework, less time to call doctors, and insurance companies, and advocating for my child, which I don’t have enough time for NOW. Even as a temporary stay at home parent I still have dishes pile up, and a mountain of laundry, a lawn over grown with weeds, and get absolutely no sleep. How am I supposed to juggle all of that, in the precious few hours a day I get to see my baby boy? There really aren’t enough hours in the day. What do working moms do? Stay up until 1am, knowing that you wake up at 6am with the baby? Just let you house descend into complete disarray and chaos? Its not like I can afford a housekeeper given how many doctors we currently pay for etc. This week I am full of anxiety, and worry, and a lot of impostor syndrome. So many people keep expressing how proud they are of me and my journey, and how they think I am so brave and strong.
I don’t feel brave or strong. I feel like a bad mom. I feel like a mom who is going to go and resume her old life, and leave her baby five days a week. Despite knowing that I need this income for my baby and husband. I feel like I am going to miss a lot of his “firsts.” I will be at work when he crawls for the first time, and his first word, which probably won’t be “Mama,” since she will become the stranger who wakes him up and then puts him to bed. I want to be there for every small milestone, as the last four months have taught me how quickly babys change from day to day.
I feel grief.
I miss him already.
Spending these last few days trying to spend as much time with him as possible and deep cleaning the house. I just want to hold him, and smell him, and soak up as much togetherness as possible, before he completely forgets who I am. I would love to hear from other working moms, who can tell me that everything will be okay.
Just a quick few photos of little Corbins first Halloween! We went as the family from Bobs Burgers. He was a tiny little Gene/Cheeseburger. Mommy went as the fun loving Linda.
We visited our Grandparents and the adults had lots of Candy. It’s precious moments like these where you forget all the scary parts, and just enjoy being a normal family and the innocence of childhood. 🎃❤️🎃
Today, we went back to Lake Park with little Corbin.
Its a large park in Hillsborough County, FL, that I frequented as a child. A few miles from my childhood home, it has lots of trails, and there are many places that one can spend time alone in nature to reflect, think, or cry. The day after we learned of his diagnosis we went here in order to be somewhere quiet and remote. We walked the nature trails so we could be alone, and cry, and grieve. We were so afraid. Scared for our little baby, and his future. I stood by the lake and wept, feeling so very lost.
This was also where on that very same day I got a phone call from the coordinator at CHOP, and scheduled for my fetal surgery diagnostics to see if we would qualify for his procedure. I was hoping with all my heart we would qualify, and give my angel baby his best shot.
Today returning to this same place I am full of joy. I cried lifting him into his stroller. So grateful he is here with us, and so proud of all he had already accomplished. The amazing odds he has already overcome, his beautiful smile, and sweet nature.
I love my little family. And we will love and support him throughout anything that comes his way.
Today instead of sad tears, we wandered the nature trails with daddy, listened to birds, were on watch for alligators, avoided puddles, and sang silly songs.
I’d like to be the ideal mother, but I am too busy raising my kids
Oh, hi everyone! It is now October 2019. Baby Corbin is now 13 pounds, and 3 months old. I cannot even believe that we have come this far, and that we are in our own home and thriving as a family. Baby has finally figured out toys, loves books, still hates baths, and has moved on from leg casts to his boot and bar for his Ponseti corrections. We are about two weeks away from being off of apnea monitoring which is going to change mommy’s LIFE. He is gaining weight, and growing big and strong. Baby is.. ALMOST sleeping through the entire night, we are so close, and mom and dad are SO EXCITED. Big hurdles are being overcome all over the place.
Overall we are doing great. I have received so many nice messages from people reaching out about how I am doing. I am.. okay. Not amazing, but I am doing okay. I have been juggling so many of Corbin’s appointments that I think I neglected my own mental health for slightly too long. For the record, I do have a therapist, she is amazing, we work on talk therapy and CBT, and she really helps me keep a level head. My schedule was crazy and we just kept missing each other. I spoke to her FINALLY last week, and what a difference in my mood after even just one catch up session. I really need to make sure to keep that standing appointment, the difference in my mood and functionality is huge. We discussed my anxiety, my body image, and my imposter syndrome related to motherhood.
That is my biggest hurdle currently. I don’t feel like a good mom. I walk the walk, I do everything I need to do and I still have this nagging feeling like I am failing my child. (Which is.. just… inaccurate, Why do I feel this way?) I am not sure if its lingering guilt over feeling like the baby’s condition is my fault, or just the huge load I feel related to staying on top of all medical schedules, but most of the time I feel like I am drowning. Over the last several weeks we have had a pediatrician visit, specialist appointment, or imaging appointment every single day. I can still not drive on my own, and am reliant on my family for rides. It is tiring, and I feel like a burden. I am frustrated, I am fighting with insurance companies, all the while trying to exercise, eat at least a few vegetables, and escape my constant post partum body image woes. Overall my little one is doing great, but whenever I get less than stellar test results, or medical opinions, I get very upset and take it very personally. To a level that is really unreasonable. I think the over reaction stems from the fact that this is my entire life right now. For example, after over a month wearing the Pavlik harness to try and correct the baby’s bilateral hip dysplasia, only one side was corrected, the right hip had made absolutely no progress at all. I sobbed. Why did I sob? It isnt my fault. The baby was born breach, this treatment isnt always effective. It wasn’t like I was sitting their pulling the kids joints out of socket. This was completely out of my control. However, when your entire schedule is based on treatments, and you put in the work, you so desperately want results. The results don’t always come. You get sad. You get mad. You grieve. You move on. We are trying a different type of brace, we will try again.
The next big “test” we have coming up for the baby is his uro-dynamics testing. They will see how his bladder is functioning and test for any kidney reflux or complications. If he is not fully emptying we will discuss the possibilities of medicine or catheterization. I am so upset over this. I am almost PRE upset, which both myself and my therapist agree is a waste of my time and energy. Why am I letting my anxiety live through things twice? I am working myself up over something that has not yet happened, and assuming the worst. In reality I will do whatever medical intervention is needed to keep his kidneys as healthy as possible. Over 2/3 of Spina Bifida children require some sort of bladder intervention, I am prepared to do what I have to do to keep him healthy and safe. I just am enjoying my time with him as a relatively normal baby, our time together is perfect, and I think facing another medical diagnosis is not something I am quite emotionally prepared for JUST yet. I dealt with clinics and meds for month and months, and I finally feel normal. I don’t want to deal with it. I have to, so I will…. but I don’t WANT to.
I WANT to take my kiddo to the zoo, and the library, and Disney. I want to spend time together in the pool, and the park, taking walks and looking at animals. I am still at the mercy of others for transportation, and with only about three weeks left of maternity leave, I am mourning the fact that my time off was exceptionally clinical, and I am sad that most of our time together has been spent in hospitals. This is selfish, I am aware. It is valid. I am aware of that as well. I am consistently burdened with self awareness. It is both comforting and infuriating.
My baby is happy. He is relatively healthy given the incredible odds against him. He has a good mom. He doesn’t have a FUN mom right now. He has a mom who makes him take vitamins, and get a lot of sleep, and wear his orthotics even though they bother him. He has a mom who makes sure he has enough antibiotics AND probiotics. He has a mom who obsesses over his gut health, and annoys insurance companies, and tries to advocate and educate the world about the strong and beautiful children in this country who have disabilities.
One day we will get to the point where I can be a “fun” mom. We will get there eventually. I know we will. I cannot wait. But for now, I will have to settle for effective, and hard working, and scared. But also loving. So incredibly full of love.
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. ❤
Sometimes it’s okay if all you did today was breath.
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.