Friday, November 21, 2008

Report from the High Risk Clinic

Babies who are born before 32 weeks or who are under 3 lbs are considered to be high risk and qualify for a bunch of extra services and tests, including a high risk clinic that evaluates babies at 6 months, 1 year, and 3 years. Kailey was born at 32 weeks (or, really, 31 weeks and 6 days) and was 3 pounds 1 ounce. She was on the borderline between high risk and... moderate risk? Normal risk? Who knows. Whatever - she was right on the fence for pretty much every test and service. The doctors at Kaiser decided to err on the side of caution and Kailey has received all the extra services and tests, and yesterday was her first appointment with the High Risk Infant Clinic. The point of the clinic is to make sure that premature babies are hitting their developmental milestones (for their adjusted age) and to make sure that any interventions are put in place if the baby is falling behind (e.g. physical therapy, speech therapy, etc). We met with a case manager, an occupational therapist, the doctor, and a social worker. Usually there is also a consultation with a neurologist, but that person was unable for Kailey's appointment.

It sounds very overwhelming, but, we weren't nervous about the clinic -- you can tell from watching and interacting with Kailey that she is doing fine. But, we still wanted to go -- if for no other reason than to see her old NICU doctor again and thank her for all of the care and attention she provided Kailey when she was in the NICU (and show her how well Kailey has done since being discharged, of course).

They ran Kailey through a series of tests seeing if she could grasp a ring, transfer it from one hand to another, pick up tiny objects, hold onto two objects at the same time, focus on pictures, identify a new object (they show the baby a page with two identical pictures and the baby is supposed to focus on each one for about 30 seconds and then, once that information is processed, look away. Then they show the baby another page with that same picture again and a new picture and the baby is supposed to focus on the new object), rattle something purposefully (very purposefully, in Kailey's case... she likes the rattle), roll over both directions, pivot, sit up, babble, etc. Kailey did everything (except hold onto two objects at once -- she was too interested in the little red square, and getting it into her mouth, to hold onto two at the same time. But, when we got her home, we gave her two objects and she held onto both of them just fine). The doctor, occupational therapist, social worker and case manager all ohhhed and ahhed about how well Kailey did everything and what a happy, healthy baby she is and then our NICU doctor asked us, "do you want to come for the other two high risk appointments? Kailey is doing great, so I really don't think she needs them. But, it's up to you." The next appointment is at a year, and so we decided to just wait a few months and see if we have any concerns at that time. But, it was a nice to know that Kailey has already "graduated" from the high risk group, at least as far as the doctors are concerned.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

First Tooth

Kailey has her first tooth! Chris was the first to notice it -- he was hanging out with Kailey and me today at Golden Gate Park, and Kailey decided to gnaw on his hand for a bit and Chris said, "does she have a tooth?" I had not yet noticed any teeth, although, we've suspected that she is teething by the amount of drool, gnawing and fussiness. So, I let her gnaw on my hand and, sure enough, there was a hard, sharp tooth just beginning to cut through her bottom gum. You can just barely see it (mostly because she won't let you examine her gums --she's a little squirmy, that Kailey) but, it's there. First tooth!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

A few of Kai's favorite things...

Kailey definitely has favorite things now -- which is so cool. It's fun to watch her react to things and the full-body wriggle/shake/spasm thing she does when she reallllyyy likes something (that and immediately reaching her hands out for it -- "gimme"). At the moment, these are a few of her favorite things:

Book: Peekaboo Puppy

Color: Red

Real Animal: Oscar (by far. She thinks Oscar is the coolest thing ever. When he is in the room she stares and stares and then, if he happens to come within striking distance of her, she shrieks (which usually sends him running) and tries to grab onto him. At the moment, he is much quicker than she is... so he usually escapes unscathed).

Stuffed Animal: Winston the Dog

Hold: Front-facing. These days, after we pick her up, she immediately throws an elbow and twists to the front and continues to twist and elbow jab until you turn her around so that she is facing out. She has no interest in looking at us anymore. She must see what is going on. It's annoying and cute at the same time. Eric totally indulges her and walks around the house until she sticks her hands out - which is her way of letting him know that she has found something that she wants to touch - which (assuming there is no safety risk) he obliges.

Song: Itsy Bitsy Spider. This is not a song we usually sing in music class, but this week, it was the song we started with and Kailey's whole face lit up and she started squealing. She likes that song.

Outfit: Anything with polka dots or an interesting pattern.

Activities: Bathtime, storytime and singing. She loves the bath (aka the sink), but is still unsure about swimming class. We took her again this week. She continues to spend most of class sucking her thumb, which is her way of coping with something that is overwhelming her. But, I think she's getting used to the class. We'll see.

Toys: the mobile (this is an oldie but a goody -- she has been fascinated by the mobile from her first days. You would think she would have tired of it by now, but she still loves it), the elephant teether, the keychain (it's a stuffed toy that is supposed to be a set of keys), the square box, the little blue thing that vibrates when you pull it's nose (I have no other way to describe it).

And a few new pictures:

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Then and Now

Every once in awhile, I marvel at how much has changed this year -- and, nowhere is that more apparent than in watching Kailey grow, grow, grow.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Election Night

Pictures from our election night party!! I'm so excited for the next 4 years.

And a video (Sarah was cracking Kailey up for like 10 minutes.... I just caught the tail end of it):

stuff, stuff and more stuff

Apparently I've been hit hard by the baby consumer bug. I am sitting in my living room - my tiny living room - and looking at the following: an elephant teether; highchair; lime green ginormous baby saucer thing complete with flashy lights, hooks, and other noise makers; a baby bouncer chair (the old fashioned kind that you bounce yourself -- with your foot); a swing (the newfangled kind -- 5 speeds and complete with music); an activity bar with a lady bug, worm, moon, bunny, bee and turtle dangling from it; a stacking toy in the shape of a dog that rattles and comes apart into like 5 rings (each of which makes its own fun sound!); a basket full of other plush things that squeak, rattle and buzz; more teethers; a baby mirror; a baby hammock; a bunch of baby books... and then there is all of our crap taking up the rest of the space in the room. Clutter doesn't begin to describe it (have I mentioned my dislike of clutter? I am a member of the "Everything has its place club" and, in case you were wondering, very few things can call their place the middle of the living room floor!) And yet, at the end of a long week, this is what my living room looks like. And, it's not just the clutter that I find completely astounding (the old Angie would be cleaning it whilst muttering under my breath about what slobs certain people are... but, I guess, when that certain person is you... well, you learn to accept it) -- it's the rampant consumerism. And, I bought most of it! I see a cute toy and think to myself, Kailey would love that and find myself pulling out my wallet. Nevermind that we already have every variation of things that crinkle, squeak, and rattle. Or that we have small and big stuffed animals alike. Or the fact that we are not exactly swimming in cash. I see it - and it's hers. Because I want it. She's too young to care. I just think it's cute. I cannot resist. Don't ask me how much we spent on the (most adorable) winter hat today. I won't tell. It's shameful. I think I need to give myself an allowance. I'm clearly out of control.

I swore up and down that our house - our tiny little house - would not become completely overrun with baby crap. In large part, this was me thinking practically. When you live in a small space, the last thing you want is a lot of stuff. It's not that I'm opposed to baby toys as a matter of principle... it's just that I thought I could resist them as a matter of sanity, especially given my need for order. Besides, I reasoned, what does a baby really need? A toy or two, sure, but not a whole store's worth. Our baby would be fine without all the bells and whistles. And I still firmly believe that to this day. She would be, of course. She doesn't care. She loves all her toys, but she would love two as much as she loves... well, let's just call it 20. And, yet, here I sit in a living room chock full of baby toys that represent not even half of our collection. My need to control clutter has given way to my need to buy each version of Kailey's favorite toys! She has a whole room - the sole purpose of which seems to be to house baby toys, blankets, and clothes. And, as I sit here, I hardly recognize the baby consumer I've become. I'm confessing to you in the hopes that I can control myself in the future. Of course, I'm not the only guilty party here. Eric just spent the afternoon looking online for a pink chandelier for Kailey's room like the one that cracks her up in the baby store we frequent. Did you hear that? A PINK CHANDELIER. Two words I never thought I would utter, much less let within 10 miles of my house. But, here I am looking at the various products Eric found and wondering if she wants one in our room as well... after all, it's where she sleeps.

Other than making a mockery of my former self, all is well. Eric is having a grand time with Kailey during the week. Yesterday they went on a long hike, and Eric told me that Kailey loved looking straight up at the trees. They've also made the rounds of Home Depot, Ashby Lumber and Piedmont Lumber. The home projects continue, although, not at the same level of intensity as the first part of the year. I love hearing about their adventures, and it's fun to come home at the end of the day... Kailey always breaks into a great big smile and does a full-body wriggle. It's so sweet.

This morning we took her to swim class. Eric was initially against the idea of a group activity (not our group of three... the swim class group). But, at the end of it, he was planning our future weekends around swim class. It turns out, everything is fun with Kailey -- even making a fool of yourself in a warm pool with dozens of other parents and babies (warm pool... doesn't that sound gross. What do you suppose makes it so warm with dozens of infants swimming in it? But, we did it!) Who are we?! We try to contain it when we are with our friends or colleagues. Indeed, during the workweek we are still semblances of our old selves -- Eric is running an organization and I'm filing lawsuits. We both manage to talk politics and keep up on current events. I think most people think we're a lot like we were before. But, at home, we don't even try to control ourselves... as evidenced by our living room. All I can say is we're having a blast... clutter, consumerism and all.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Memories of the NICU... Fading

We are no where near deciding if we are going to try to have another child someday. We're still licking our wounds from our experiences this time around, and I say that with full knowledge of how incredibly fortunate we are that things turned out as well as they did for us. But, once you've stood on the edge and seen all that can go wrong, horribly wrong, with pregnancy... it's hard to go back. No one talks about it - and, luckily, for most, pregnancy is the mythical, wondorous experience it is billed as. Sure, people get morning sickness, swollen ankles, mood swings, cravings -- but that is all part of joining the club of motherhood. You can watch others go through the same thing on a 30 minute sitcom... in those 9 months (or two episodes) leading up to the water breaking and rushing to the hospital and a few hours of oh-so-painful labor and then... boom... beautiful, healthy baby and everyone is happy and in a day or two, everyone treks home from the hospital together to start the sleepless nights as new parents.

You never hear about that other stories -- going to the doctor when you're seven months pregnant because you've had this annoying shoulder pain for the last 24 hours that is getting increasingly worse and, suddenly, being sent up to labor and delivery, hooked up to a bunch of monitors, given magnesium and told that you won't be going home until you deliver the baby which, by the way, is going to happen in the next day or two. And, as you try to process this information while running through your mental to-do list with all the things you were going to do before the baby arrived -- finish the kitchen, buy baby products, have a baby shower, start discovery on that case, have case planning meetings with all my co-workers and colleagues and make sure everyone knows what needs to happen while I'm on leave - and you can't process having a baby, especially a baby that is going to be small. And potentially sick. And in the hospital for many, many weeks. And even as you're visited by a constant stream of nurses, social workers, high risk doctors... you still don't believe it. But the disbelief doesn't matter because 48 horus later you're on an operating table and then you have a baby on the 4th floor, in the NICU, while you're on the 5th floor wondering how all of this happened.

During those early weeks, I pumped and pumped. I spent more time with my breast pump then I did with my baby, desperate to make sure that I pumped enough milk that she could eat exclusively from me. The thought of formula for my 3 lb baby made me want to call CPS on myself. I knew, intellectually, that there was nothing wrong with formula... but, I was going to provide for this baby even as she wiled away her hours in her isolette, alone in this new world of bright lights, strangers, and other crying babies. And, every time I turned that pump on, it began squaking at me "whacko" "whacko" "whacko" or "where's Kailey" "where's Kailey" "where's Kailey". I would sit in the dark at midnight, 3 AM and 6 AM pumping and being cajoled "where's Kailey" "where's Kailey". But, at the time, I mostly thought I was handling everything beautifully. I felt numb to the world - I felt like I wasn't feeling anything, and mostly I wasn't. I would run to the hospital in the morning, hold Kailey for the requisite hour, try to feed her (recreational breastfeeding, they called it), pump, hurry home, pump some more, hurry back to the hospital... and on and on it went. And I hardly ever cried - but, I also hardly ever felt anything. I felt obligated to hold Kailey, but I wasn't in love. Where was this overwhelming feeling of love that a new mommy was supposed to feel for her baby? I felt like I was in shock. I felt like I was running through the motions. But then, in the dark at 3 AM my pump told another story -- of all the emotions I was keeping pent up inside, "where's Kailey" "where's Kailey" "where's Kailey". I wanted my baby at home with me. I desperately wanted this to all end.

It's so funny how our bodies deal with stress. People under stress often will say they are not feeling that stressed out -- but then they'll complain, "it's so strange - my eye has been twitching for the last week" or "I have this chest pain that won't go away... I think it might be my heart" or "I just can't seem to sleep anymore." You can't really hide from stress. As soon as you realize your body is manifesting stress in one way, and overcome its latest manifestation with sheer will power,it just gives way to a new manifestation. The twitchy eye becomes the chest pain becomes the sleepless nights. You can't hide, you can just deny it as best you can and cope. But, your body needs an outlet. And so it was during those NICU days with my talking breat pump, "whacko" "whacko" "whacko". Whacko for deciding to become a parent? For having the audacity to hope that my pregnancy would be like all those pregancies you hear about -- with the morning sickness, the mood swings, those last months of pregnancy when you're so big and uncomfortable and just begging to go into labor, and then, finally, the water breaking, deciding with Eric when to the hospital, labor (maybe even labor with a bit of drama) and, ultimately, delivery of a healthy, plump, screaming baby. I never really expected it to go just like that. I had been hit by a car. My pelvis is all fucked up. I expected pregnancy to be hard. I expected to have to have a c-section. I didn't expect it to end early or land us in the NICU. Life always gets you that way.

But now, 6.5 months later, it's all beginning to fade. We are delighting in Kai's every trick and sound. She is wondorous -- that baby we always thought we would have. Plump, screaming, rolling, kicking, babbling. And, all of those awful NICU memories are fading fast. Like when people ask me what it feels like to have broken so many bones. I have no idea. It's as though it happened to someone else. And now, I am beginning to feel that way about the NICU. It wasn't so bad and it was obviously worth it. But, before I sink completely into the fog, I wanted to write it down. It wasn't easy, and it could have been so much worse. We could have been those people in the middle room. The room with the really sick babies. The babies that often didn't go home. We were so lucky... but, it might be time to walk away from the table. To cash in our good fortune. Read this post, dear Angie, before trying your luck again.