Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Growth Spurts

Apparently infants tend to have growth spurts at 7-10 days, 2-3 weeks, 4-6 weeks, 3 months, 4 months, 6 months and 9 months. Kailey seems to think that she should have these growth spurts based both on her chronological AND her adjusted ages. In other words, every day is a growth spurt day! Take right now for instance -- she is 6 weeks (nearly 7 weeks) adjusted and 14 weeks (nearly 15 weeks) chronologically (also known as 3.5 months). So, based on both her adjusted age and her chronological age, she's due for a growth spurt... and Kai stepped up to the task by gaining over 10 oz in the last 6 days (she now weighs in at 10 lbs, 4.5 oz!). Let me say that again -- she gained 10.5 oz in 6 days. For those that don't know (which includes me up until a moment ago when trusty ole google provided me with the answer to my query "average infant weight gain"), infants between 0 - 4 months gain, on average, 5 - 7 oz a week. Kai has gained at least 7 oz every week her entire life, save that one week in the NICU when she resisted the 4 lb mark. We were freaking out that week, but it appears we needn't have worried. She is all about the weight gain. And, this last week, packed on an additional 4 oz (it'll be 4 by tomorrow) over the average.

I guess what I'm trying to say is Kai's done a lot of growing. Or, more to the point, a lot of eating. And during this double growth spurt week, that has meant eating every hour eating. Well, not every hour. But, close. Let's review the last 12 hours or so... last night Kai ate at 9 pm, 11 pm, midnight, 1:30 am, 3:00 am, 5:00 am, 6:30 am, 8:00 am, 9:30 am, 10:30 am, at which point she finally took her longest nap of the day, sleeping from 10:50 am to 1:15 pm (ahhh sweet, sweet break!). Eric gave her a couple of bottles during the night, but I did the feedings from 1:30 am on (because there was no more fresh milk in the fridge and it's a pain in the ass to defrost milk in the middle of the night when there is a ready supply of milk available). I was hoping she'd crash out this afternoon (I'm in need of a serious nap, even if she isn't), but she has continued on her near-hourly schedule. Lots of eating, little sleeping. Fun times.

Actually, I mean that. These have been fun times. Despite being a bit tired, I'm also elated. Over 10 oz in less than a week!! As each week goes by, I become less and less obsessed with her numbers and feel further away from the NICU. In fact, I managed to go back for a visit on Monday. I had to go to the hospital to refill her vitamin prescription, and the pharmacy had made an error and told me to come back in 20 minutes. I figured I might as well use the time to make the trek up to the 4th floor and say hello. It was a bit surreal, but ultimately really good. Kai had the best team of nurses and doctors in the NICU. Not only were they exceptionally smart, invested, concerned and professional -- they were also just nice people and they became a big part of our lives for 5 weeks. I can't say I had exactly missed them, but I was happy to see them again and it was fun to show off a much bigger Kailey. I'm glad I stopped by -- I think it helped to achieve a bit of closure on those early days.

But, back to the now. Kai is doing terrific and she really is a fun baby -- she's interested in everything around her, smiling and laughing at her toys and us. She fits in the Ergo carrier now (yea!! that is a MUCH better carrier for someone with a bad back). So, all in all, it's been a sleepless week, but a good week.

then and now:

June 15th:

August 3rd:

Friday, July 25, 2008

Flashbacks and Dreams

Kai had to get ultrasounds of her head, abdomen, liver, spleen and spinal cord this last week in order to ensure that there weren't any hemangiomas growing internally. It is routine to do ultrasounds any time an infant has more than 3 hemangiomas, and Kai has about 12 of them (most of them quite small). And, even though she hasn't had any blood in her stools the last few weeks, the fact that she had that problem recently was all the more reason to do the tests. Ultrasounds are no big deal. It isn't an invasive procedure. It doesn't hurt. Combine that with the fact that there was a very low probability that the hemangiomas were growing internally (our doctor was just being cautious and following procedure, which we obviously appreciate) and I convinced myself that I wasn't too concerned about the upcoming tests. Leave it to my subconscious to disagree. The night before the ultrasound, I had horrible NICU nightmares. I haven't dreamed about the NICU ever. Even when we were in the middle of it. But, Tuesday night, it's all I could think about.

The next morning, as we approached the hospital, I realized we hadn't actually been in the hospital since May 22nd, when Kai was discharged. Her doctor's office is in a different building, and so we hadn't had to park in the dreaded garage or cross that street making the trek we had made each and every day for 5 consecutive weeks. And, as we made that familiar trek once again this last week, I had the overwhelming urge to run the other way. I did not want to walk back into that place, even if this time we were walking in with a healthy baby in our arms and we knew that we'd be leaving with her at the end of the exam (which does make it infinitely easier than walking in without a baby and leaving a few hours later similarly babyless). When Kai was in the NICU, both Eric and I dealt with it. We had to. We made the trek every day, multiple times a day. We held her, fed her, talked to her and kept our chins up. We saved our biggest cry for a few days after she came home, when we could finally let go of all the stress and feel happy for the first time since she was born. And, while I feel back to my old self these days, returning to the hospital this last week made me realize that I have not fully dealt with the experience of the NICU. And, I may never deal with it. I don't have to. I can just file it away and hope to never return to that place again. Which is what I had done until we had to go back to the hospital this week. And, even though we were only there for a couple of hours, I hated every minute of it.

Before we went to the hospital, I thought we might stop by the NICU and say hello to the nurses and doctors that we had gotten to know so well during our extended stay. But, as soon as the exam started, it was clear to both of us that we weren't in the visiting mood. We wanted to get the test over with and get the hell out of there, which is what we did.

But, the good news is the ultrasounds didn't reveal anything abnormal (did I bury the lead?). Yea!! I suspected as much before we went. My new dairy-free diet seemed to have resolved the issue Kai was having with her bowels, and I knew from my research of hemangiomas that it is quite rare for them to develop internally (and, yes, I know that statistics don't mean much when you are on the losing end of them and that just because something is rare doesn't mean it doesn't happen. You're talking to someone who has been hit by a car, spent 6 weeks in the hospital and 8 weeks in a body cast, had jaw surgery at 14, and - most recently - had severe preeclampsia at 32 weeks resulting in her baby spending 5 weeks in the NICU... I, as well as anyone, know that bad things can happen and that statistically improbable events occur. But, I also know that more often than not, things turn out OK and that one bad run doesn't doom you to a lifetime of bad runs...). Anyway, so my research indicated we probably had little to worry about and I'm pleased to report that this time, the statistics were right!

The other good news is that we're done testing for awhile. No more scary doctor appointments on the horizon. Kai has a clean bill of health, as long as she (meaning I) remains dairy-free.

As anticipated, my new diet has led to cravings (that can't be fulfilled). I DREAMED of macaroni and cheese this week. It was so good. But, being the sort that can't live in a dreamworld -- even when it ACTUALLY IS a dream - my dream took a turn for the annoying... as soon as I finished the last bite of the imaginary mac & cheese, I immediately freaked out and called the doctor, confessing that I had just eaten dairy. I had to wake myself up to quit freaking out. How pathetic that I cannot allow myself to enjoy pretend dairy products without feeling guilty. Honestly, sometimes I just want to slap myself. Relax! It wasn't real! Enjoy it, you freak... the dreamland dairy is all you have for the foreseeable future.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Smiley Kailey

Kailey is all smiles these days. At first, she was saving her biggest smiles for her toys, which she is endlessly fascinated by... but, in the last couple of days, she's been all smiles with us too!

And, she is definitely getting better at the push-up (and is less cranky about tummy time these days).

Also, the swing that we finally broke down and bought has proven invaluable. When we first got it, Kai couldn't stand it, and so I sort of forgot about it (even though it is bright green and huge - at least in our small living room). I just figured she wasn't the swing-type. But, about a week ago, Kai was fussy and nothing I was doing to entertain her was working (shocking, I know, given how endlessly entertaining I can be!). Her toys were of no interest to her (which is unusual... she the smiles above) and she wasn't hungry or tired or interested in being held. I was at my wits end, and then noticed the big, green, plastic swing (with the ironic rainforest theme... you have to love big plastic toys with environmental themes!). I didn't think it would work, but I plopped her in it anyway and... presto! No more tears. She loves it. She's in it now, admiring the metal frame as it swings to and fro and slowly dozing off to sleep. And, I'm doing work. OK - I was doing work, until I decided to post these pictures. Now, back to it. I only have an hour (max).

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Anniversary Letter

Eric and I met 12 years ago this month (I don't know the exact day). On our 10 year anniversary I wrote him a letter reflecting on our first ten years, and pulled it out today, reread it and decided to edit it a bit (meaning take out the mushier parts) and post it because it is a good summary of our early years together, and I realized I could create a little photo history here (as I recently scanned a bunch of our old photos into the computer). So, here goes...

July 2008


I remember the first time I saw you – when I went to interview for the Elizabeth Furse for Congress campaign (the first of many campaigns we've worked on together). You had a baseball cap on and you were pushing yourself on your roller chair between your desk and the table in the center of the office. You didn’t pay me any attention when I said I was there for an interview. You just pointed to Megan’s office and went back to rolling between your desk and the table and typing furiously at your computer. I remember hoping to get the job so that I could interrupt you.

I remember the morning, just a few weeks later, when I was supposed to be leaving to drive cross-country and return to college (!!) when we went out to my car – my “new” used car that I had just purchased for this very trip – and it wouldn’t start. So I bagged the cross-country drive and decided to stay in town for another week. I remember that week. That was the week we hiked in the Gorge and I confessed all my deepest secrets and insecurities to you in a last ditch effort to scare you off. And, I remember how relieved I was when you stayed.

And, I remember that first winter, packing up your boxes in your Portland apartment in preparation for your move out to D.C. Of course I remember that day! The day we said more than I love you – the day we said “forever”. I remember looking up at you and remarking that this was a big move. And you agreed that it was, but then you said that you weren’t scared because you knew we were going to be together for forever. I am not very good at being able be place myself back in a moment as it happened. But, I remember where we were standing when you said that, and all of the boxes that were around us, and I remember you saying “forever” because as you said it, I knew it. I had known it before you said it, but hearing you say it out loud, it became truth. It was one of the few moments in my life when I have glimpsed my future and known that I wasn’t speculating. I couldn’t guess what the future held, but I knew in that moment that it was no longer my future, it was ours. And here we are – twelve Julys later, and we’ve spent the last twelve years creating things to remember.

I remember the first place we lived together by ourselves - the house on Carolina Place where we stayed for four years. I remember how it was really just an oversized doll-house; everything was in miniature. No freezer. No air conditioning (and I remember those hot, humid summers!) But, it was our apartment. That house has so many memories for me. It was the house where we met Abby. Where we hiked 20 miles (round trip) along the tow path to “great falls” only to find out that they weren’t great, and they weren’t really falls. They were rapids. That was one of our first realizations that the East Coast version of a waterfall, mountain, or ocean would never live up to our standards. It may have been one of the first times we vowed to move back West as soon as we had the chance.

I remember our first camping trip over Thanksgiving weekend (always good to have a first camping trip be in the winter!), and the first night when we cowered under a rock as we waited out an electric storm and the second night when we froze up on the ridge because we didn’t have sleeping bags or thermarests. It was our first death march – which seems to have doomed us to a life of death marches – although, none compares to the shitty horse island, Assateague! I think the silver lining of Assateague was it convinced us that we needed to start investing in some decent camping gear.

I remember our first trip to the Atlantic Ocean – and how we settled down to watch the sunset and then realized it was going to set behind us!! Another moment when we realized we needed to head back West.

I remember our adventures. All of these things that we’ve done - rock climbing, sailing, backcountry adventures, rides in single prop planes with an old man that probably lost his license to fly decades before taking us up in that plane – I never thought I could do them. I may not stick with these activities (which I know frustrates you to no end) but I can’t believe I even attempted them.

And I remember all of our long walks in those early years (before we had a car!). I remember how we walked to and from work – miles each way! We’d walk to the store. To the monuments. To the cherry blossom festival. To our favorite Mexican restaurant that was clear across town. And we would deconstruct and map out our lives on those walks. We plotted how we would get to where we wanted to be. We discussed whether you should go to grad school, whether I should go to law school, and imagined a future when we might finally be done with all of our incessant schooling and actually doing the work that we wanted so badly to be doing. We dreamed of the days when we would no longer be interns or assistants or field staff – when we might run an organization, manage our own cases or projects, be set free to protect a beautiful place or fight for the rights of others. We talked of moving to California and buying a house in the woods – like the one we saw that first winter, when we drove to California (and Mexico), and maybe, one day, of raising a child. We planned on those walks and dreamed of how it might be.

And I remember everything that has happened since those walks – Oscar, more camping trips, international and domestic travel (Ireland, Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, St. John, the Tetons, Hawaii…), coaching soccer, better apartments, summer solstice parties, real furniture, fewer death marches.

And I remember how we made the discussions we had on those long walks into our realities – grad school, moving back West, law school, late nights writing each others papers and helping each other over the next hurdle. And then, finally, beginning to see the fruits of all our labor – running an organization, securing a job fighting for the rights of others, buying that little house in the woods in California, and, now, our newest adventure has just begun.

Can't wait for the next 12.



Friday, July 11, 2008

Everything's Different Now

Before you have kids, people constantly tell you how having children will change everything -- a point that seems so obvious, that it has always baffled me that people deem it necessary to pass on this little nugget of wisdom. Of COURSE everything will change, as it should. This is precisely why we were so deliberate in determining whether and when to have a baby (although, the when got a little muddled). We wanted to be in a place financially, emotionally, intellectually and professionally where we were ready to take on a child. And we talked long and hard about what would change and how we would adapt to our new roles as parents. And, honestly, all of those changes were anticipated and planned for -- so our transition to parenthood has been relatively smooth (except the bit of the bumpy start in the NICU). But, there has been a change that I totally didn't expect, and I've determined this is what people mean when they say EVERYTHING will change. They aren't talking about just your relationships, career, finances, emotions, etc. They mean everything. Even what side of the bed you're willing to sleep on.

I have always slept on the left side of the bed. Always. It's been a point of contention over the last 12 years with Eric, who has insisted that it is unhealthy to have sides (ergonomically speaking). But, I was willing to risk a permanent crick in my neck in order to stay on my side of the bed. We tried to switch once, and I woke Eric up in the middle of the night and made him switch back with me. I couldn't sleep. There were no comfortable positions on his side of the bed!

But since Kai's arrival - I start out the night on Eric's side of the bed and at 2:30 (when my shift begins) I switch to my side. Eric and I have determined the best way to staff Kai through the night is to designate one of us to be responsible for getting up with her for half of the night. Eric takes the first shift - and gets up with Kai if necessary between 10 and 2:30. I am on deck from 2:30 on. This arrangement has worked fantastically well for getting at least 4.5 hours of sleep, and usually more (because she usually sleeps at least part of each shift, allowing the designated caregiver to sleep right along with her). But, because the co-sleeper is on my side of the bed, it only works if the person who is not on duty sleeps on the Eric side of the bed. At first I thought this arrangement would kill the whole plan - how would I ever sleep on that side of the bed? I'd just be tossing and turning until 2:30, when I got my side back. But, as it turns out, this isn't true. In fact, by being on the side of the bed furthest away from Kai, it helps me make the mental break as the one on duty - and so not only can I fall asleep (you can sleep anywhere with enough sleep deprivation) but I can even remain asleep when Kai wakes up and starts fussing, because I know it's not my shift.

So, it's true. Everything is different now.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Roll, Baby, Roll

Kailey and I have a bit of a morning routine. She eats (at about 4 AM) naps a little (one of my favorite parts, since I nap right along with her), eats again (at about 6 AM) and is then wide awake and ready to play by 6:30 or 7. I have gotten up at 6 for about as long as I can remember, so it shouldn't be so hard to wake up at that time now, especially since I don't have to be anywhere. And yet, waking up at 6 is harder now then it was before. Maybe because the waking really starts at 4. After getting up at 1 or 2 to pump. Both of those wee morning wake up calls tend to be fast -- especially the pumping. And yet, the interruptions in sleep really take a toll, and I am rarely feeling very playful at 6:30 or 7. But, luckily, playing just involves laying a blanket on the floor, grabbing Kai's mirror and stuffed animals, and putting her somewhere where she can see her toys. And, it usually gives me enough time to make some coffee and wake up a bit more.

Kai loves laying on her back, cooing at her toys. But, every morning, as soon as I have coffee in hand, I ruin it for her by flipping her onto her tummy. Cruel, cruel mother. One minute she is gazing at her reflection, all wide-eyed and awe-stuck, and the next she's on her tummy, madder than a hornet. She immediately starts crying and complaining, and by the time that I turn her onto her back again, she is over the whole "playing" experience.

But, on Saturday morning (July 5th), it appeared that all the tummy time was really paying off because Kailey managed to kick herself over, from her belly to her back. The first time she flipped, it was an accident. She was on her tummy and hating it, as usual, crying and kicking. But, because she was holding her head up while she cried and kicked, she managed to flip herself over. It stopped the crying (for a minute) - she looked so surprised! But, I ruined this for her as well by flipping her right back onto her tummy and grabbing the camera, hoping to capture it the next time around. But, flipping her back over really pissed her off, and she started sobbing -- so I picked her up, told her what a great accomplishment it was, and calmed her down.

The next night, Eric and I had Kai on her tummy again and this time, she was much less fussy about it. She lifted her head up and looked around a bit and then started kicking and got herself onto her back. It appeared much more deliberate this time. Of course, I was foiled again in my attempt to catch it on video. So that you don't think I'm a moron with a video recorder, let me explain. We don't have a video camera. We have a regular camera that takes short video clips, but it only records in 20 - 40 second increments. So, you have to time it just right - and since Kai doesn't exactly flip on command, it's a bit tricky to capture. I had it recording, but the video segment ran out of time seconds before she flipped herself. We turned her right back over again, and once again she flipped herself back. And, again, I didn't get it on video. Blasted! So, we tried a third time - but at that point she was hoppin' mad. Who can blame her? Here she is working to remain on her back and every time she manages to get there, we just make her do it again. Not cool.

Yesterday morning, we were at it again. Kai in her quest to remain on her back, me in my quest to capture her flipping. Ten videos later, and I got it! You can see that she is not too happy in the video. But, here she is - flipping herself over.

Good girl, Kai! Only three weeks adjusted, and already turning over! I think the doctors in the NICU were right -- she doesn't appear to know that she was born early or that she's so small.


In addition to learning to roll, Kai is also on a new diet. Well, really, I am on a new diet for her. No dairy. Yup, that's right - Kai and I are now dairy-free. The queen of condiments is having to forego dairy. I've always said that every food has a topping (or condiment) and, it turns out, most of those toppings have dairy as a component. Fruit is better with cream. Toast is better with butter. Pasta isn't pasta without parmesan. Potatoes need sour cream, as do burritos and enchiladas (and all mexican food needs tons of cheese!). And who wants coffee without cream? Not to mention all of the wonderful foods that are just dairy at their core -- mac and cheese, pizza, omelets. OK, I'm making myself drool. But, no more. I can't have any of these foods anymore -- well, I can have some of them, I just can't make them the very best foods they can be by adding the appropriate topping.

Why the new diet? Kai has had some digestive issues ever since she got home from the NICU, and after a few tests and consulting with the docs, they suspect she may be sensitive to dairy and so we are foregoing all dairy for awhile. And, I can't replace those foods with soy products - because soy is the second most common allergen. If it does turn out to be a dairy sensitivity, she'll probably outgrow it. At about a year. A YEAR, people. That means a year of me not eating mac and cheese or ice cream. I know, I know, I could look at the bright side. No dairy, no alcohol... just think of all the weight loss potential! But, let's be honest, I'm not trying to enter any beauty contests here... I want my macaroni!

Actually, it's been less than a week, but it hasn't really been that hard. If it were a diet to lose weight, there is no way I'd do it. I like those foods. A lot. And, I can maintain weight and feel good while eating them. But, I don't like the foods enough to risk having Kai feel sick - so, it really hasn't been that tough giving them up. Of course, talk to me a month from now... I may be going through some serious withdrawals by then!

I think that's all for now. Here are some new pics!