Early Days

CJ was born on September 10 at 29 weeks, 5 days. He weighed in at 2 pounds 15 ounces and was 15.5 inches. He was intubated at birth but by the time I saw him 7 hours later, they had removed the tube and he was breathing with the support of CPAP (forced oxygen). I took this as a great sign.

I had never seen a baby so small. He had lots of tubes and stuff but otherwise he looked like a perfect baby, just teeny tiny. He was in an isolette (closed on all sides with little doors to reach in through) and under "the lights", to rid his body of excess bilirubin. Because he needed the light to hit most of his skin, he wore only a diaper and a little eye mask, as if he was in a tanning bed. He had bruising from his rough start (he was stuck in the birth canal) but he had no major injuries -- they sometimes worry about broken bones when a baby has to be pulled out like he was. From his belly button, he was hooked up to a Central Line (an IV providing his nutrients). Then there were the various leads that monitored his heart rate, oxygen levels and blood pressure. There were a couple of main monitors around his bed -- one for the Central Line that beeped periodically and one for the leads that beeped all the time if one was disconnected or his numbers altered a bit. 

CJ started out in the intensive area. He shared a room with a baby named Grace. There was one nurse per room and the room was attached to another room with two babies, so the nurses could cover for each other if one needed to leave for a moment. 

I was able to hold him the day after he was born. It was for a short period but his nurse encouraged as much skin-to-skin contact as possible. He was screaming as she took him out and I was a little scared (he was so little! and he was hooked up to so many wires!) but once he was on my chest, he settled down. I cried holding him, but these were happy tears. My baby knew me already. I will never forget that feeling. He was mine. 

The next few days were a blur of hand-washing and sitting by CJ's side. I was still admitted and for the first day or so needed to be wheeled down to his room in a wheelchair by an aide. After a couple of days, I was able to walk down on my own and typically did so in my pjs and slipper socks. I had visitors but they met me in my hospital room, only our immediate family joined us in the NICU. We felt some need to keep this part of our experience private. It was partly for medical reasons (we didn't want to expose him to germs), but also for personal ones too. 

Our hospital encouraged family-focused rounds so we were able to listen in and ask questions as the doctors went over any tests, any changes to his care and so on. These were quick but informative and many of this doctors spent the time to explain things to us in a way we could understand. They were happy with his progress so far. 

One of the neonatal doctors, who had resuscitated CJ at birth, stopped by every so often and each time he'd remind us how "traumatic" his birth was. He was well-meaning, I know he meant it to say "But look how far he's come and how great he's doing" but what we heard was "trauma". Thinking back on it now, it does make me a little grateful I was under general anesthesia and didn't realize what was happening. 

There was some fear, in general, but Chris and I powered through it and tried to take it all day by day. I kept thinking, how can I be stressed when my tiny son is the one who has to do all the work? How can I not be strong for him?

Birth Story

I had never given any thought to going into labor early. I felt great my whole pregnancy. Nausea in the first trimester but no throwing up, more tired than usual but other than that really good.

My water broke the day after Labor Day. We had had a busy weekend of bbqs and beach days. We spent Labor Day at the Jeep dealership buying me a new car. I returned to work on Tuesday for a normal day. It was super hot out and I went out at lunch for a sandwich and remember feeling a little faint walking back to the office from my car, but I assumed it was just the heat. I was also a little hungrier than normal and ate a whole bag of trail mix in the afternoon.

After work, Chris and I had a quick dinner and were relaxing when all of a sudden I had the feeling that water was leaking. I yelled to Chris that maybe my water had broken but he immediately assured me things were probably fine. My mom was at the hospital with my dad for his own medical issue and I texted her asking what I should do. She told me to call my doctor right away. When I got the after hours message, I didn't know if this would qualify for an "emergency", my mom said of course it did! The doctor on call suggested I head to the hospital to get checked out. We got right in the car, but Chris continued to assure me that this must just be something that happens sometimes. 

It was awkward heading in to the hospital because water continued to leak when I stood up. I was texting my best friend, a mom of 2, who was certainly more concerned than I was that I might be experiencing pre-term labor. When I looked around the waiting room of full-term pregnant ladies, I felt weird to be called before all of them. At 29 weeks 3 days, I didn't look like the others who were about to pop out a baby.

The nurse got me setup and we waited for the doctor. When the NP came in, she told me that my water had, in fact, broken. I was surprised because only a few days before my mom was telling me that with all three of her pregnancies they had to break her water. She started explaining stuff to me and eventually referenced my staying in the hospital. I asked, "Oh, so I'll have to stay overnight?" and her answer was "No, you'll have to stay until you deliver the baby. We'll try to keep him in until 34 weeks." When she left the room, I cried/screamed in a way I don't remember having ever done before. I was having contractions every 2 minutes but couldn't feel anything. My mind raced with all different types of thoughts: "He's not developed enough", "I can't stay in the hospital that long", "What about my new job I just started 2 weeks ago", "I haven't even had my baby shower yet", "We're not prepared yet." Things felt so out of control so quickly.

Chris, like always, was calm and comforting. He is the only person who would be able to help me breathe in that scenario. He re-assured me we'd get through it all. We made a few phone calls and waited to get moved to a room. They gave me a steroid shot which would help develop his lungs if he was born now. The nurse I had was really caring. She could tell I was scared and spoke in soothing tones and did everything she could to make me feel comfortable. My mom came and I could see in her eyes she was scared. It must be hard to see your kid in that situation. They started a magnesium drip to slow my contractions and gave me a steroid shot to help the baby's lungs should he be born.

During the night I started feeling the contractions. It freaked me out that I could feel them now when they were supposed to be stopping. It was never a massive pain, more like period cramps. Baby's heart rate was monitored continuously and he was strong. That helped make things a little easier. Eventually the contractions subsided and they let me eat/drink.

That day (Wednesday), a neonatal resident came by to talk through all of the concerns should our son be born at this stage. Chris and I decided to just aim to get to 30 weeks (Saturday) as a lot of the complications started to go down at that point. It's crazy how much they develop over just a few days! That resident helped us to feel confident that our little guy would make it and we were in the right place as our hospital has an award-winning NICU. Someone came and did a sonogram and measured him around 3 pounds. He was breach so if I had to deliver sooner it would be a c-section, unless he flipped. They also gave me a second steroid shot.

The next day, I told Chris to go back to work. I didn't want him using up all his vacation time before the baby arrived and I felt totally fine. I was even allowed out of bed to go to the bathroom. I asked if I could walk the halls and the nurses said no. They wanted me to do everything to keep him inside. Chris set me up with Netflix and my Kindle and headed to the office. After a few hours I realized that the 4.5 weeks until the goal delivery date would likely feel like an eternity. I thought maybe I could do some work from the hospital the next week.

My Aunt Kathy visited me in the afternoon. I had been on the monitor and everything was looking good. I was just feeling a bit uncomfortable. My mom and dad came up a little while later and I made the same complaint. I'm not one to complain to nurses so I thought I'd just tough it out but my mom made me ask the nurse if I could take anything. A little time passed and I still felt so uncomfortable. The nurse came back and said she'd put me on the monitor and that she had to call a doctor. Baby's heart rate was good but as soon as the doctor looked, chaos ensued. He was presenting and they had to rush me into surgery.

It was just about 5pm-- my dad called Chris and told him to rush to the hospital. My parents frantically packed up all my stuff (they had to clear my belongings out of the room) into plastic bags. I screamed/cried my way to the operating room. I didn't feel ready to have this baby and without Chris I couldn't calm down. They had to put me under general anesthesia because they didn't have time. This meant I'd be knocked out and no one would be in the room. I couldn't stop crying and shivering. There were so many people in the operating room-- probably like 10 with more on the way from the neonatal team. My mom scrubbed in and came in to the OR for a minute but once they started anesthesia she had to leave. I tried to focus on the anesthesiologist who needed me to breathe.

And that's all I remember. While I was in surgery, Chris was speeding on the grass of the shoulder of the Northern State Parkway-- he figured this was the one time he had a really good excuse if he got pulled over. He made it to the LIJ in 25 minutes from Melville (usually a much longer drive at rush hour), he probably arrived just as CJ was being born at 5:25pm. I awoke a few hours later still in the OR. It took me a while to come out of anesthesia. I was disoriented at first but I asked how he was doing and they told me he was ok. I also asked what day it was because it was my sons birthday (and I was hoping it wasn't September 11). Finally they brought me to the recovery room and I got to see Chris. I kept asking over and over to see my baby. I asked any nurse that came in, I asked Chris, our parents, our siblings. They all thought this was comical, I was like a kid waiting for Christmas or something. But I just wanted to see him because it didn't feel real that one minute I was pregnant and next thing I knew I wasn't, yet I hadn't even seen my baby. I needed to see him to know he was ok.

Chris told me that he got to see CJ as they wheeled him to the NICU. He reached in his hand and CJ took hold of his finger. Chris said he knew that he'd be ok. He gave his incubator a little pound and told him "You got this, little man." He told me later, though, that it was overwhelming because so many doctors were talking to him at once.

Finally, the nurse let me know that transport would be picking me up to bring me to my room and once I was settled they'd bring me to the NICU. Chris and my parents were with me as I headed to the room. I saw a sign for the NICU and asked the transport guy to sneak me over there. It's hard to explain to anyone else. It was funny that I was loopy and asking everyone to bring me to "see my baby" but it was the only thing I could think about.

Ironically, I was brought back to the same room I had been in just a few hours before. After what seemed like days from when I was in that room earlier, the nurse got me setup in a wheelchair and wheeled me down. I remember heading to the NICU but the actual moment of seeing CJ for the first time isn't really there. I was sad about that for a while-- I didn't remember the first time I saw my first child-- but Chris explained it to me and even though our story is different it doesn't matter. It doesn't affect how much I love my child or our relationship. They lowered the incubator down and I saw him for the first time and let out a soft "Oh". Chris said he could see how much I loved him in my eyes.  

I didn't have the birth experience I pictured. I hadn't even pictured much because everything I heard before was that having a birth plan almost ensured that nothing would go as planned. But I did always picture that moment of seeing him for the first time being right after he was delivered in the delivery room. I'm coming to terms with that and writing has helped me deal with strong emotions before so that's one of the reasons for this birth story. On Thursday, September 10 our lives had changed forever. Our son was born at 29 weeks, 5 days. My little guy is a little miracle and I'll write more about that later.

 Holding CJ the following day.

Holding CJ the following day.

Maternity Post

I wish I did these all along, but I figure better late than never!

28weeks

How far along?  28 weeks
Total weight gain/measurements: about 27 pounds... eek.
Maternity clothes: Yes
Stretch marks: Don't see any yet!
Sleep: Mediocre -- I wake up a lot but generally fall back to sleep
Best moment this week: Getting closer to finishing our home projects-- bathroom, etc. 
Movement: Yes, but not quite kicks yet, just general movement especially when I'm hungry. 
Food cravings: Not really having any right now
Anything making you queasy or sick? No.
Gender: Boy
Labor signs:  None yet, thank goodness
Symptoms: Slight back pain, difficulty putting on my shoes, generally tired
Belly button in or out? In, but very close to out!
Wedding rings on or off? On, but take them off as soon as I get home!
Happy or moody most of the time: Both
Looking forward to: Labor Day weekend!

Exploring Creativity

The great thing about this world we live in is that it’s truly possible to follow your dreams and passions and achieve success. And while I love my day job, I feel so inspired by the amazing creatives, entrepreneurs, and small biz owners who I follow that are pursuing their passions on the side (or full-time). I know it takes tons of hard work to make it happen. The success stories I see online and through the blogs I love aren’t built overnight. They are putting their hearts and souls into these things. But even if the perfectionist in me wasn’t scared – ok, terrified – to fail, I don’t yet know what my passions are. And that’s been such a blocker for me.

But I want to change that. I want to start taking chances. Push myself to explore even if I don’t know if ill be good. Try new things. Fail. A few things I want to try:

  • Photography class
  • Calligraphy practice
  • Writing more- blog a few times a week at least
  • Attend a conference like Creative at Heart or a MeetUp or something similar

I don’t know where I will end up but I can create an environment that allows me to experience. I tell myself that I’d be able to put the effort in if I really wanted something, but I find myself procrastinating even writing this blog because I’m afraid I won’t be good. But why not just open myself up more and seek out lots of different outlets? Maybe I’m the only one or maybe lots of us feel disconnected from or haven’t found our passions yet. Has anyone done any exploring of their own?

Bucket List

I've never had a bucket list before. For someone as obsessed with to do lists as I am, this is kind of surprising. I guess I always thought everything I wanted to do would get done at some point. And while that's likely true, having a list feels like it will help us remember/keep at it when life gets busy. I've seen other lists on blogs & liked the idea of completing "100 things". Then I can write blog posts as I/we accomplish them. Some of ours are big-- travel to Switzerland-- and others are smaller-- learn the Mayo recipe for sauce, but each is important in it's own way.

I'll keep the full list here and link out to the posts as I go.

The Big Move

We couldn’t wait to get into our new house, but as with most closings it took us months from hearing “It’s yours!” to actually moving in. The good thing for us is that with a month-to-month lease on our apartment we could be super flexible. We had our closing in early February (ie, signed our lives away!) and thought we’d be able to move in a few days later on Super Bowl Sunday. Though not ideal, at least it was a weekend day so we could recruit a few helpers. Unfortunately, the sellers pushed us to move in on Monday. All day Sunday we finished packing and then went over to a friends for the big game– the first time Chris hadn’t hosted a Super Bowl party in 20 years. The weather was an unseasonably warm 55 degrees, so that had us crossing our fingers for the same type of weather for move-in. Of course we weren’t so lucky. When we looked outside at 6am on move-in Monday, snow was falling and fast.

After spending the entire morning carrying boxes back and forth in the wet snow, we got a call from our sellers around 10 am asking if we could delay the move because their movers weren’t willing to drive the truck in the snow. We held firm on moving in, but were a bit nervous about driving our own truck. We had some help from our friend Kevin to load out furniture, then when we got to our new home we recruited some of my cousins who had a snow day.

It was a cold, wet, tiring day but we did it! And we could actually call ourselves homeowners for the first time.

Snuggles

This week, there’s a blog post going around the internet of a toddler snuggled up with his puppy-brother.  I couldn’t resist posting my own version of Duncan snuggled up with Chris and I. That dog loves snuggling more than anything else.  We often say that all that he wants is for the three of us to be together all the time. We, like the mom in the post, originally intended on crating Duncan but we finally broke down and just let him sleep with us.

The funny thing is, the last few weeks he has been more independent.  He goes into his crate on his own (we leave the door open) and sleeps there for part of the night. He even heads into the bedroom before Chris and I leave the living room sometimes. We’re not sure what this phase is about! But for the time being, I’m enjoying the bit of extra space in our full size bed, because clearly we get plenty of cuddle time with Duncan.

Good news!

Well, there’s been a great turn of events! House #3 came back to us last Friday because their other potential buyers didn’t work out. They asked us to come up just $3k to meet the previous offer which we did. Then, we started scrambling to get an engineer in asap. Luckily my dad recommended someone and he was able to squeeze us in yesterday. I was super nervous because the fact that the other deal didn’t work out made me think there must be a structural issue, but we knew we needed to just push forward.

Throughout this process, Chris and I have complained that there’s no protection for the buyer. We had to pay for an inspection without knowing anything about the previous inspection that had been done. We had to put in offers and hear about other bidders without knowing if that was for real.

In any event, things went pretty well. I took notes as the engineer rattled off a variety of issues, but all-in-all nothing that drastic that would make us walk away. As first time homebuyers, knowing that all maintenance is on us and not our landlords is a little stressful. Luckily, my hubby is pretty handy. And neither of us expect things to be perfect right away.

Can’t wait to start sharing photos of our soon-to-be home and it’s transformation here!

 

The Road to our Dream Home

Buying a house is hard.  Since we got back from our honeymoon, we’ve spent a few hours each weekend looking at houses. During the week, we look online to find homes we want to see, plus we’ve been saving money like crazy for our down payment and filing out the mortgage pre-approval paperwork. We’ve also been crunching the numbers to make sure that our mortgage is reasonable and in line with the rest of our expenses.

So when we finally saw a listing for what we thought would be THE house, we brought our parents along because we knew we’d need to make an offer right away.  The home was a large split-level, 4 bedroom house with a beautiful “bonus” room that Chris and I already pictured having friends and family over to watch football and celebrate holidays in.

We’d noticed that houses were going pretty quick so we didn’t want to delay. We started at 91% of list price, as our agent said homes are currently going between 90 and 95% of list price.  We consider ourselves “strong buyers” as we plan to put down 20% and we’re pre-approved.  We heard back pretty soon after that there were other offers and ours needed to come up significantly to even be considered. We went up to 95% of list price, thinking that would put us in the running and give us room for the seller to counter-offer.  Unfortunately, even that wasn’t good enough and we found out that they accepted an offer OVER list price.

Chris and I figured that was a fluke and while crossing our fingers we’d hear back from them again if the deal fell through, we headed out the following weekend to keep looking.  The next weekend, I fell for a slightly smaller more affordable home.  Chris was a little more skeptical, because he wants to buy a forever home.  I thought this was a great starter home with potential to grow. We decided to put in an offer at about 92% of list price, again as a starter. We found out again there were LOTS of offers so we went up to 99% of list price. Still, that wasn’t enough and they accepted an offer $2k over asking.  We had the opportunity to go up, but we decided to stick to our guns and if it didn’t work out, then it wasn’t the house for us.

This past weekend, we saw a home that we could’ve lived in our whole lives. It was a huge hi-ranch with 5 bedrooms and a first floor apartment we could’ve rented out for the time being.  We knew there was an accepted offer on the house but thought that the fact that they’re showed it to us meant that they would consider our offer.  We bid 97% of list price, again to give us some flexibility. We found out yesterday that they went with another offer with no chance to counter. They could still come back to us if the other deal falls through, but I was massively disappointed.

I keep trying to believe that “everything happens for a reason” but I’m getting tired of looking every weekend.  At this point, we’ve seen about 55 houses. The good part of this is that when the right house comes around, we’re ready to jump on it. Plus, we’re month-to-month on our current lease so we don’t have any reason to feel rushed.  I’m just super excited to take this step with Chris and can’t wait to move into our first home together.