Wednesday, December 16, 2015

I don't write Christmas letters...

So I write lengthy blog posts. :)

You don’t have to tell me how fast they grow up. Time is whizzing by, or rather, I just never have any of it. Our new normal is putting the kids to bed, cleaning the house, taking food to a new mom and then looking up to see it’s 11pm on December 15, and I haven’t bought a single Christmas present yet. For anyone.

Yet while I can appreciate people wanting to stop time, I don’t feel that way, not yet. My mom shared with me once something my Aunt Dolly had said when her daughter was young, something along the lines of not wanting to stop time because each new stage in her daughter’s life was her new favorite. (Did she repeat that correctly, Aunt Dolly?) And that sounds about right to me. I think every night, more than once, my husband and I find ourselves both smiling at something silly or sweet or even impressive Calder has done or said, something that makes him even more fun and loved (not sure that’s possible!) than the day before, something that elicits a spoken declaration from Kraemer about how we have such wonderful, perfect (in our eyes) boys. That usually happens right before, or after, we’ve put Calder in time out. Don’t let those long eyelashes fool you.

Happy birthday, Daddy!
Conked out.

Let’s recap. The summer was an absolutely whirlwind. Before I could plan any birthday parties (let’s face it – I was never going to be that ambitious anyway), Beckett came along, and we found ourselves celebrating Kraemer and Calder’s summer birthdays in the middle of visits from Aunt Carolina and Uncle Andy (and Santi!) and Aunt Corinne and Uncle Matt. We took a trip to Kiawah, where we were joined by grandparents and long-time buddies, as a way of a post-baby babymoon – between bedrest, birth and baby hospitalizations, I was way past done with being relegated to my quaint little DC row house. We had visits to DC from both sets of grandparents, and Calder finally got to meet Aunt Kelly, Uncle Preston and cousin Ike (sadly, Calder was sick and not much of a playmate – we resolved that situation when we visited New Orleans/ Baton Rouge for Thanksgiving.) We spent Labor Day with Aunt Amy, Uncle Bruce, cousin Amelia and cousin Quinn. We got to spend more time with Aunt Kristen and Uncle Andrew when we visited Cincinnati in October, which included witnessing Uncle Andrew squeezing into a cow-shaped train car since Calder was too scared to ride alone and Mommy was tending to little bro. (What a sport. Who has that photo?) One of the fun parts about seeing family is how much Calder (and Beckett) loves it. It’ll be two weeks later and Calder will randomly exclaim, “See Ike! Ike’s home!” On the drive home from seeing Aunt Jen and Uncle Mike’s new house, he quipped, “Uncle Mike fun!” I’ve heard all names on numerous occasions, so don’t feel left out.

Mommy and Calder. People tell me his name was made for a judge...
National Mall biking outings
Mommy also braved a flight alone, with two children, one sick, to Cincinnati while Dad traveled to Moldova for work (and wine tours. PLEASE.) It went as poorly as you might expect it to, including a missed flight (not our fault, I’d argue); a majorly DELAYED flight; eight hours in the airport, most of it me alone with two baby boys; a hysterical breakdown (as in, screaming bloody murder, and it was not hysterical in the funny sense of the word); vomit (vomit, not spit up); breastfeeding on the family bathroom floor which eventually just became the airport waiting areas floor because I couldn’t take the bathroom, nor could Calder; unattended luggage; too much luggage; angry strangers; entertained strangers and very kind strangers. This was all followed by, after our arrival in Cincinnati, a trip to the ER because of Calder’s escalating illness and labored breathing, which resulted in a very alarming blood pressure (which upon follow up, we think can be dismissed.)
Gorgeous. I heart DC!
Yup, I love DC, too!

Backyard shenanigans
Poor little man has also been sick pretty consistently since the end of August. In fact, we all have. The pediatrician just smiled smugly at our most recent visit when I asked whether we should be isolating Calder yet again this winter given the rate and intensity at which he’s been sick; apparently this is par for the course for two-year-olds? That said, she very firmly asserted that we must continue to nebulize him daily through the cold and flu season and perhaps longer, depending on what his lungs sound like, and of course throughout the day on days he’s sick. Since summer we’ve also had a few bouts of unexplained vomiting, so that’s something we’re working on with his speech and occupational therapists, since we think it’s related to his chewing and swallowing. Beckett has managed to either fight off most of these illnesses before they start or shortly thereafter, for which I’m indescribably grateful.

Calder finally bit through his pacifier sometime in July or August, I can’t remember which, at which point we simply took it away from him, cold turkey. We’d already hidden his monkey wubs, so once the giraffe bit the dust, that was the end of that. That didn’t go terribly, nor did it go well. I have NO tips for someone trying to wean their child off a pacifier. Between gaining a little brother, losing his pacifier and eventually vacating his crib, Calder had enough change in his life to interrupt his sleeping pattern for at least a couple of months.

Beckett continues to grow like a weed. He’s in the 50th percentile, which to me, is, like, WHOA. He’s a monster. I always laugh when I hear another mom talk about her big baby who is in reality in the 98th percentile and actually is really big for his age. The appointments with the radiologist and urologist confirmed the hydronephrosis/urine blockage, but the hope is that Beckett’s body will grow in all the right places enough over the next year that it’ll fix itself, with no need for surgery. For the time being, we are giving him a daily antibiotic prophylactically every day until he’s 18 months, at which point we’ll schedule another VCUG to see whether the issue is resolved.

Basically, he’s adorable, and we’re smitten.

Monday, June 29, 2015


So, newborns? They’re a handful. I was thinking to myself this morning, my gosh, I STILL have no time, two weeks later, even though we aren’t in the NICU as we were with Calder and are no longer housed in the peds unit with Beckett. And then I realized that this was still not a normal baby experience. Maybe there is no such thing for anyone as a “normal” baby experience? I'll hold off on running down the list but we have had a hefty number of doctor appointments in the last couple weeks, more than the average bear (where does that idiom come from? Oh, wrong use.) Given the push to put Beckett on formula immediately following birth due to concern about his blood sugar levels and thus his familiarity with a bottle, as well as his prematurity, nursing has been put on hold, and I’m back to being chummy with my old friend the pump. When Beckett expresses hunger, I start with nursing, always a challenge, and then move to a bottle, and then pumping. Between doctor visits, feeding Beckett and any nap I can catch (given I’m up all night), there isn’t a lot of free time. Such is the life of a new mom!

In terms of where Beckett stands medically, we think we’re in a good spot but will have some follow-up appointments with specialists as we did for Calder. Before we left Inova Children's, even though his hearing had been tested at GW, they informed us they wanted to test it again using even more in-depth testing, because one of the antibiotics they'd had him on for the last four days has a tendency to cause hearing loss. They had failed to mention this when putting him on it ('scuse me?!), so  you can imagine we weren't thrilled; fortunately, everything looks good, but the woman who tested him allowed that it could be months before we see any effect, so we will certainly want to have him tested again at one year, as Calder was. We were finally discharged on Thursday, so pretty much spent a week in the hospital. Because of his low temperature, which resolved after a course of antibiotics, and UTI (based on the growth in his urine sample), they decided it would be prudent to run a renal ultrasound. The US showed that he has some fluid (urine) pooling in his kidney on one side, causing the kidney to swell -- the condition is called hydronephrosis -- so they are sending us to the radiologist for a voiding cystourethrogram (VCUG). There can be a couple different causes for hydronephrosis, so what we see with the radiologist will determine next steps.

Yesterday we attended the NICU reunion, sponsored by Fairfax Neonatal Associates ... maybe also March of Dimes, and some others, I think. I was impressed; they really went all out. We were out of town for the reunion last year, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. It was so sweet how they celebrated these kids. They had superhero capes and masks for all the little kids, cake galore, ice cream popsicles, punch with straw cups (exactly Calder’s style), a musician, craft tables, a photo booth and more. We said hello to our doctors, who I respect so much, and who last week I almost called directly on several occasions and still wish I had early on, just for peace of mind. It was so good to see them. Dr Baker took one look at Beckett and asked how old he was gestationally, and when he was born. When I gave him the quick run-down of our past couple of weeks, he raised his eyebrows. “We wouldn’t have discharged him so quickly. Any babies less than 36 weeks are automatically sent to the NICU, because inevitably, they experience issues within a few days of birth.” Of course, in our case, he was spot on. Kraemer chatted with Dr North for some time about the new hospital being built, but Dr North was mostly interested in Calder, getting his memory refreshed on all the challenges Calder faced while in the NICU and how he was getting along now. We missed a few others who had been on Calder-duty, like Dr Baveja and Dr Doe, so guess we’ll have to hope to see them next year! We also missed tons of our nurses, but we were lucky to get a visit from one while we were still in peds with Beckett (thanks, Laura!) I will never forget what these folks did for us and for Calder.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Guess Who's Back

passing the car seat challenge at GW
I was both excited and relieved when Kraemer made it to the delivery room. I could hear nurses and doctors congratulating him on his way in, and a smiling but maybe a slightly nervous Kraemer insisting, “Don’t tell me!”

Unlike with Calder, we had a list of names – both boy and girl names – before we even stepped foot in the hospital. But like with Calder, it still took us nearly the entire hospital stay to settle on one. We picked Beckett Rider Lovelace, more than anything because we liked how those names sounded, but Beckett, of English origin, means “stream,” which coincidentally seemed to fit nicely with Calder’s meaning, “rocky river.”

The first thing I remember asking the doctors after delivery was whether my baby would need to go to the NICU. Turns out he had a healthy set of lungs, but his blood sugar level was dangerously low (hypoglycemia), so they recommended skipping the breast and going straight to bottle and formula in order to get his numbers up – he needed to meet a certain threshold, 45 mg/dL, to stay out of the NICU, and he was only at 27. We fed vigorously over the next 24 hours, as much as Beckett would allow, and kangarooed as much as possible to keep his body temperature up and respiratory rate steady. Despite satisfied responses from the doctors and nurses regarding his health, I was skeptical. Even after he passed his car seat challenge (just barely, I might add), I was waiting. My plan was to hold off on any celebration for eluding the NICU until we were discharged and home, and once that happened, I happily announced the birth of our son to friends and family.

home for a hot second and
meeting Grandpa (aka Papa?)
chilling with Grandma (name in
progress - ask Calder)
Alas, even then I had spoken too soon! At Beckett’s first visit to the pediatrician on Thursday, there was some concern about him being jaundiced. Upon seeing his skin tone, my mom called it immediately, and although I was seeing more red than yellow at the time, and trusting that the reading at the hospital had been accurate and had not increased, the next morning I could see yellow in the whites of his eyes and his gums. We weren’t surprised then when the pediatrician sent us to the hospital to have his blood drawn and tested. What’s acceptable varies according to how old the baby is, but the results we received that day were that his bilirubin levels were “bordering” the danger zone. We were instructed to feed him as much as he would take, and some doctor and nurse friends recommended we expose him to indirect (definitely indirect!) sunlight, before returning the next day for another reading.

first stop, the beach

The second reading showed only a slight increase, but that was enough to push him over the limits and to demonstrate that we were not moving in the right direction. Without giving us an option on hospitals, our pediatrician arranged to have us admitted to the Inova Fairfax Children’s Hospital’s pediatrics unit. We didn’t fight the choice, though – before we’d walked in the door, anticipating this outcome, we had already agreed Fairfax would likely be our top choice. Within less than a couple of hours I received a call telling us a bed was ready.

As we settled into our room and the nurses took Beckett’s vitals, we were still in pretty good spirits. Beckett was struggling with jaundice, but we’d caught it, a stint in his sunnies on the “beach” would fix him up, and we’d be home in 24-48 hours. The dry erase board with his name, his vitals and the names of our nurses and doctors for the day instructed him to eat, pee and poop, which all seemed easy enough. The room was set up with an open crib for Beckett, a hospital bed and a pull-out bed, which made it seem palatable to stay for a night, maybe two if need be.
Keeping B warm
Given that Beckett has had an extremely (and increasingly) low body temperature since we left GW, I was concerned that they were putting him in an open crib rather than an incubator since, for the lights to be effective, he’d only be sporting a diaper. The nurses nodded in agreement and set off to see whether an incubator was available.

No sooner had they left the room did the attending fly in, introduce herself breathlessly and explain that she *normally* doesn’t see people this quickly upon check in – but that Beckett’s vitals scared her enough to want to visit promptly. She cut to the chase and told us she was worried Beckett had meningitis and wanted to draw his blood, collect his urine and do a spinal tap. He’d certainly have an incubator. And an IV. The nurse behind her shook her head and looked at me sympathetically, mouthing not to worry. Not exactly what we’d signed up for – what happened to eat, pee, poop?

Now. That was Friday afternoon, and it’s now Sunday evening. We are hoping to leave tomorrow afternoon, Tuesday at the latest, but no one is comfortable yet projecting our discharge date. Although his blood work came back okay, and his spinal tap okay (ruling out the meningitis fear that instigated this whole mess), his urine sample has sprouted a growth, and they’re waiting for more information from the culture. His bilirubinemia has resolved but he is still struggling to regulate his temperature. They’ve still got him on prophylactic antibiotics. I cannot believe I’m going to say this – and I have to admit I’m not entirely sure I mean it – but I wish we were in the NICU. It’s not that they haven’t taken good care of us here but more that I feel I know and trust the neonatologists in the NICU more than I trust the pediatric attendings and residents here. I recognize that that probably isn’t fair, but on more than one occasion it’s been clear to us, sometimes directly stated, that they do not specialize or even frequently see children this young. Who can blame them? Our kid is only a week old TODAY and almost certainly should never have left GW without a few days in their NICU.

In the meantime, Calder is totally kicking it into high gear in the speech department. A few weeks ago I pointed out the moon to him on our way to get milkshakes one evening after dinner, and the other day when I pointed to the crescent moon in one of his books, he said “moon” for me! He says “(ba)nana,” “ball,” “door.” We get regular updates from my in-laws, who have graciously extended their stay in order to care for him while the three of us are holed up in the hospital. I miss him SO MUCH and can’t wait to go party with him.

Make mischief?

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Hello, World!

Guess what? We did not have to wait quite as long as we thought we might to discover the baby’s sex: baby boy Beckett Rider Lovelace joined the party on Sunday, June 14, 2015, weighing in at a whopping 5 lb, 1 oz. As my father-in-law put it, we just can’t seem to have a vanilla baby – Beckett came at 34 weeks. My very first thought after delivery – heck, maybe this thought was occurring during labor, though I’ll get to labor momentarily, and I cannot say I remember much about it – and very first question for the doctors was, “Does he have to go to the NICU?” (Update: I’ll learn later the answer would have been different elsewhere.)
Beckett's first photo op

This labor wasn’t what I expected it to be but then again, when is it? I’d been told when I was pregnant with Calder not to have a birth plan, or at least not to be wedded to one, and I suppose that was good advice given the way things played out.

this is serious, everybody
Let me set the scene. It’s Sunday, and I’m planning a big day of being productive. Saturday we had taken Calder to the street just around the corner, one of my favorite streets – who wouldn’t want to live on a quaint, tree-lined street dotted with benches that are always hosting a friendly conversation – to a street fair. He had a BALL with the fire truck, the pony rides, the sprinkler … you name it. This also meant I got nothing done all day. So Sunday, that was going to be cleaning day. I’d also typed out a list of what I wanted to pack for the hospital (I was 34 weeks and not going to get caught unawares this time!) and written out some instructions for whomever might be caring for Calder while we were away, just in case it would be friends of ours who’d never watched him before and wouldn’t know where to find the sippy cups, you know? (shout out to Mary Ellen and Tommy, who do know where everything is, thank you thank you thank you!!) I needed Sunday to actually pack that bag and print those instructions.

It’s shortly before 9am and I’m standing at the kitchen sink loading the dishwasher after feeding Calder breakfast. A sharp pain in my side has me heading for the couch instead of breakfast, and I tell Kraemer I need to lay down. My voice has an edge, so he plays it cool and tells me to relax while he takes Calder out back. About 10 or 15 minutes later – I’m not timing – I try to stand, thinking I’m not getting another one. But the second I stand up, there it is, and it’s strong. "I think it's labor," I shout around the corner, and I’m going to go upstairs to lay down and do this labor thing from the comfort of bed. I’d been hoping to go into labor on a weekday so that Virginia (our nanny) would have Calder and Kraemer could be my full-time doula, but it’s beginning to look as though that plan will not pan out. 

After my first pregnancy, I’d read more into the phenomenon of  Braxton Hicks, and how if you move positions sometimes these false contractions will go away, so I decide to get up and start a bath. Hm, no. Contraction. I lay down. I call the doctor, and the answering service tells me they’ll return the call within one hour, two at the most. I get up to brush my teeth. Not so much. I call Kraemer upstairs and when he gets there, ask that he call 911. A one-hour call-back time isn’t going to cut it, and there’s no way I’d be able to a) sit up in the car to wear a seat belt or b) make it to the hospital in time if we have to get Calder into a car seat and heed the traffic lights. I’m still not timing my contractions, but that’s mostly because, well, I don’t have to time these to know they are too strong and too fast to just be getting started. After assuring Kraemer there is NO way I’m getting downstairs into our car, I hear him replying to the dispatcher that my contractions are, yes, less than five minutes apart. This must have all been over a span of 25 minutes.

To anyone who has been in labor before, whether you opted for an epidural or not, a 1.5-hour labor probably sounds pretty fabulous. Mmmm – it has its pluses and minuses. Thankfully, at this point I was 34 weeks, not 24, as I was with Calder, but I’m terrified I’m going to deliver a premature baby at home, where there are no NICU staff on hand. I can hear Kraemer in the other room with Calder, changing his diaper, maybe getting him dressed? When he returns, I can tell Calder is in distress, probably because *I’m* curled in a ball on my bed, distressed. Poor kid. Kraemer later told me he finally resorted to handing Calder his Wubbanub. And I breathe a huge sigh of relief when I can hear the sirens whirring toward our house, hopeful and certain this ride has to be mine. The paramedics clomp upstairs and ask whether I can make it down on my own. I’m skeptical but in a hurry, so the minute a contraction stops, I patter downstairs in my robe, into the street and onto the gurney, and no, I do not need shoes, thank you very much, but Kraemer is behind me toting Calder and hands the paramedic my flip flops, ID and insurance card and lays my cell phone by my side. Calder looks completely bewildered so I try to put on my calmest voice and tell him I’ll see him soon and then I’m in the back of the ambulance.

At this point, I’m more inside my head than anything else and keep my eyes squeezed shut the entire ride there. I’m certain labor and delivery CAN be a peaceful experience for some, and I’m trying to picture all of the relaxation techniques I’d learned about only a couple days before in a birthing class that will later (or rather had already) become a joke between Kraemer and I. Not that I’m in a position at this stage to really use any of them except for breathing in my nose and out my mouth, so I do. I’m sure that though challenging, generally labor is nothing to fret about, but I’m admittedly freaked out. My baby is early, I’m in transit rather than at home with a midwife or in the hospital with doctors, and I’m in the company of paramedics, not my husband.

I’ve got a death grip on the paramedic’s hand, who, by the way, has been great. By the time they roll me into L&D without stopping in the ER, as is protocol, I’m 8 cm dilated. The doctor introduces herself and apologizes for not having been able to return my call. The room is full of residents, nurses and doctors, which is probably normal but still a bit overwhelming, but I’m happy to have made it to the hospital, period. The paramedic tells me apologetically that at this stage she needs to get out the way, and no one steps in to take her place, so I find myself grabbing the railing on my bed. I realize that Kraemer, who has to find someone to watch Calder, isn’t going to make it for the birth. The doctor who has been seeing me throughout my pregnancy happens to be on a call and I feel a little bit of comfort when he walks into the room, a familiar face. I have two or three more contractions once in the room before having contractions where I feel the urge to push, and the doctors confirm it’s time.

Within maybe five more minutes, I have a baby. I probably yelled to wake the dead. Partly because, you know, it hurts, and I had no epidural, partly because I'm squeezing the awkward plastic rail on my bed instead of my husband's hand, and partly because the morning was TRAUMATIC and I'm having a preemie again -- and this time I'm familiar with what that could mean. Less than 90 minutes after my first contraction I hear him cry, a welcome relief, and they lay him on my chest -- the one part of the birthing experience I really wanted more than anything. Everyone comments on his nice set of lungs, and I’m already proud of him. I can’t wait for Kraemer to walk in and meet his son.