Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Sleep...of Lack There Of

When the twins were newly home from the NICU we went through a pretty rough patch of sleepless nights. At that time there were a lot of factors that played in to this, one of which being the space that wasn't quiet their own "room". Our bathroom was practically IN their room and well when Daddy came home from work late at night (or had to get up for work super early) inadvertently they'd wake. They also would often actually give me a run for my money when it would come to just getting them down to sleep at the beginning of the night. I tried a lot of different things to make it better. Keep in mind I also had one baby tied to a feeding pump all night too, which was a challenge in itself.

I remember being so torn because as I sat and rocked Blake she might cry out yet the power cord and the tubing wouldn't reach to the rocker so I could rock them both at once. Or I'd be rocking her and Blake would wake up. (It's actually quiet challenging trying to get one baby asleep while the other screams their head off. Add to that that most nights I was flying solo.) And I had these big dreams of rocking babies to sleep every night while we cuddled close as they drank their bedtime bottle. It was nothing like I envisioned at all.

Oh how I remember these late night parties that Blake used to have every night at midnight. He'd babble and coo and smile for what seemed like hours. As long as he wasn't in his crib. Then he'd scream.

In the end we decided to sleep train, in a very relaxed way. It worked after just a few nights, and we never looked back. Since then we've moved (twice but who's counting), and even those first few nights in a new place did not make a darn bit of difference. Heck they even slept in hotels like it was their home! During those early days we had bought a sound machine which helped them sleep through the night, and when it broke or someone forgot to turn it on they didn't notice.

And then... we transitioned to toddler beds. Aside from a few night terrors up until this point at almost 2.5 years old, they literally slept through the night and willingly went to bed/nap. Now all bets were off. Since the toddler bed transition, I'd say that 3 out of 7 nights a week we end up with someone in our bed, usually Addison. We've tried being firm, putting her back in her bed over and over, rocking, cuddles, massages, offering water, anything else we think of at 2 am. Sometimes it works, other times she'll sleep with us for a bit and then we can get her back in her bed, and then sometimes, she stays in our bed until it's time to wake up.

It's in those moments when she's laying cuddled flush against me, I am sweating bullets, and she kicks me in her sleep again; that I am reminded that there once was a time when she didn't want to be held. Or when Blake is making this noise he makes when he sleeps (sounds like "round and round and round" with his fingers in his mouth) and I cannot sleep, I remember all the nights he slept in the hospital "alone". And well - I am ok with it. Because ya know what? In the end there will one day be a day when they won't want to cuddle anymore. And for each night of sleeplessness, there are mornings filled with footsteps down the hall and an excited "Good Morning Mommy" followed by cuddles and a cartoon or two. It's worth it.But boy oh boy do I miss consistent sleep.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Preschool Part 2

Today Addison and Blake started preschool through the program I briefly mentioned in my last post about what we'd be doing here. We decided that it would probably be very beneficial to get them into preschool now so that IF Addison qualifies or come time for the next phase of preschool it won't be such a shock for them both. So - they are now going to preschool one day a week for two hours. Probably doesn't seem like much, but it's the structure that they both need and will benefit from as well as the interaction with other children. It's a 'non exclusive' preschool meaning while it is affiliated with the Early Intervention system it's not only for EI kids. (AKA Blake can be there too). Eventually they will increase to two days a week (or more) though that won't be until closer to age 3.

Their morning started promptly at 8 am with breakfast in bed.
Blake was so excited that he wanted his "jacket on NOW" and didn't care that he was still in pjs.

Finally we are all ready. (They wouldn't hold the sign for me though - stinkers!) And Blake was less then amused.
They thought they were so funny, haha. Determined I wouldn't get a good picture for this big occasion.

Mommy & Us.

Daddy & Us. So glad he was able to see them off on their first day. (Addison wanted to kneel down like he was).
We lost the jacket vests. It was a little warm - waiting to go in to school.

Another funny shot for mommy!
Her smile here kills me. Seriously. I love these two.

They came home from preschool, requested some yogurt to eat and then promptly said "Nap now". Off to nap they went and slept from 12:10 to 3:00pm! WHOA! Apparently they were worn out from their big day.

Yogurt mess. LOL.

And then the afternoon shenanigans began.

All in all they did fabulous. They had never so much as stepped foot inside this place until today, but they walked right in to their classroom and began playing. No goodbyes, no tears, not so much as a look back at us. Just like that - they were off. Really I couldn't be more proud, but I admit; I choked back some tears several times after I dropped them off. I still cannot believe that here we are. A moment we weren't sure we'd get to have.

I felt foolish because really this isn't nearly as big of a deal as what 3 y/o preschool will be, or kindergarten - you name it. But for us it IS a big deal. It's a big leap. A moment we won't take for granted. I cannot wait to see how much they grow with this new experience. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Mommy Guilt

Tuesday I got the opportunity to take some time out for myself and spend the day at the county fair, followed by a concert at the fair grounds that evening. I was pretty excited, not only to be spending the day with one of my closest friends (J) but also to be seeing Florida Georgia Line live.

(Never heard of them? Try checking out their smash hit Cruise, personally I prefer the remix with Nelly, but the original is pretty good too. Or even Get Your Shine On a song written about actually drinking moonshine, if you haven't figured it out yet - their a mostly country "crossover" band.)

Their opening act was Colt Ford
Who I admit I hadn't heard a whole lot of. But turns out that he's actually wrote and demo-ed some pretty big hits for some big stars. (Ever heard of Dirt Road Anthem? Yeah he wrote that.) 

He was pretty good too, think a mix of Hank Williams meets Kid Rock with a large side of redneck and chicken & biscuits (yes he actually wrote a song called Chicken & Biscuits). 

So anyway I imagine you are thinking "what does this have to do with Mommy guilt?" Well here's the thing. I left before nap time on Tuesday, and by the time I got home they were in bed. For the very first time since they came home from the NICU - I spent nearly twelve whole hours away from them. It was also the first time that hubby had to fly solo for that long. I wasn't worried about how he'd handle it, though I did feel a little sorry for him when this - 
happened just before I left. To be honest she was in rare form from the time she woke up. I knew hubby would have his hands full! 

I also worried about how A & B would react once I actually left and the realized I wasn't going to be gone for just a few minutes. I imagined based on their track record that they would be fine until nap time when they woke up and I wasn't there, I was concerned they would be upset. I was right. I got a call just after nap time from a distraught Addison who just needed to hear mommy's voice. But hubby handled it like a pro. She got to talk to me and then he distracted them and they soon forgot all about me again. 

In the meantime, here I am sort of "living it up" at the fair and all I could think every time we'd pass a kiddie ride was "oh Addison would have loved that" and "would Blake get on the helicopter ride?" Needless to say I think I'll be taking my favorite boy and girl to the fair before the weekend so they can enjoy it too! 

I had fleeting moments where I felt like I should still be at home with the kiddos. But overall - it was so nice to have some time to myself and get to be ME for awhile, instead of mommy and (J) did a great job of making me enjoy myself. Haha. She had me on nearly every ride you could think of, it was a blast.

And then, I came home. I was just cuddling into bed when Addison woke up crying. She was actually crying for her daddy but since he was asleep and had to return to work the next day, I went I get her. The minute she laid eyes on me she sobbed about "I love you momma, I missed you. I need you momma" and my heart nearly broke in two. Me thinks she has learned how to play the guilt card early.

I do think its important for us moms to take some time for ourselves though. Not just for our own sanity, but for the sake of our children. I think this is especially important if you are a stay at home mom and you little ones aren't used to being left in anyone else's care. Speaking from experience here - my mom was a working mom and other then spending time with my grandmother while she worked, I rarely spent any time away from my mom and dad. And when I did, I had a terrible time adjusting. (Just ask my Godmommy who had to cope with a sobbing "way to old to be crying like a baby" kid.) 

And not just time for ourselves but time as husband and wife as well. To nurture that relationship too, which is probably one of the hardest things to remember to do, especially as "new" parents. 

For now though, I am going to go back to cuddling with my babies who are making up for lost time by sticking to be like glue. 

What do you do to make time for you and/or your relationship with your spouse/partner?

Disclaimer: The views expressed are my own. I have not been compensated in anyway. I even had to pay for my own ticket to both the fair and the concert. It was however, money well spent.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Remembering September 11 2001

I haven't forgotten where I was on that fateful day. It was my sophomore year of high school, I walked in to my science class and sat down when my classmate who sat in front of me turned around to tell me what had happened. It made no sense and none of us could wrap our heads around it. There were a lot of reports about other events besides just the plans hitting the towers. Threats that made me wonder if my own parents were safe. 

My mom works for a state department and my dad often traveled to DC and VA for work, could he have been caught in this mess? 

Absolute terror was all I felt. 

Eventually I was able to get to the office and get a hold of my mom, she was ok. I don't believe we knew where my dad was at that point. The rest of the events from that point until we were all home together were a blur. 

I remember watching the news and footage over and over. Unsure if these was "the end" of the what we learned were terrorist attacks or just the beginning. Watching the President declaring war against whoever had done this. 

We all slept in the living room together for several days. My mom and dad, didn't go to work for a few days as job sites were locked down. We were grateful to just be together. Alive. So many others were not. 

Later my dad told us he was doing repairs at our areas largest newspaper building. He recapped the mass chaos, people running around, newspaper prints flying it sounded almost as if it were something out of a cartoon - except it wasn't. It was real.

Our nation pulled together strangers helped strangers. We were all changed. So many lost their lives. So many signed up to fight for our country, our freedom, and against these terrorists. So many of those people died in this war. Classmates, neighbors, friends of friends, "kids" my age. 

Several years later, as an adult, I had a chance to visit NY. It was about the time they had just began to break ground on the memorial. The skyline looked so empty, still. A gaping hole where the towers once stood. Standing on that sacred ground, you could feel the emotions, it was like you could see the blood shed and feel the connection who those who never left there.

And now today, 12 years late, I wonder if my children will ever understand the gravity of what happened this day. I never far thought that there may have been an event in my lifetime that would make it to history books. Something they will learn about in school and come how and ask me if I remember. 

I just hope I can do them justice in explaining it in a way they truly understand. I hope they understand the sacrifice that our armed forces make to ensure this won't happen again. But reality is, I can't promise it won't happen again. Chances are they may very well experience something as catastrophic as the events that day. And if heaven forbid they do, I pray I can help them understand and cope.   

Monday, September 9, 2013

Does It Get Easier?

Does being a preemie/NICU/special needs parent ever get easier?

I had to ask myself this today after reading a comment on a FB support group for past/present NICU parents. There was a very heart wrenching question posted by a family member concerning a very ill preemie with a lot of similarities to my sweet lady Addison. I held off on saying anything initially because even giving all the similarities the situation was different and I wasn't sure how to go about this delicate situation. I did follow the thread while I thought of how I could explain Addison's story and offer some resources for this person. It was the response before mine that shook me to the core. 

Another twin mom lost one of her sons at 10.5 months old. TEN AND A HALF MONTHS OLD! He never left the NICU, it was the only home he ever knew. My heartaches for the mom and her family. And in an instant I was taken right back to our time in the NICU making tough choices for Addison. 

I had to ask myself, if it ever gets easier. Does it get better? Will I ever "get over it"? And by "it" I mean the experience itself, the having babies 14 weeks early, watching them fight for their life and all that a came after; that "IT". I don't know that I will ever "get over it" in the sense that I'll forget what happened or certain things won't remind me of some of/any of those moments. But I do know, time has helped me heal - a little.

Day to day is easier. The worry lessens just a little. But the fact is, I cannot erase history. It's our story. I cannot imagine forgetting where Addison and Blake started or how far they have come. As days go on though my focus has changed from focusing on how close we've come to loosing them both to focusing on just how amazing of a miracle we've witnessed. The thought of another pregnancy or NICU experience still scares me - my scars run deep there - likely as deep as my physical scars from my c-section. And sure there are things that can take me back and unleash those raw emotions, and sometimes I need to cry it out. Other times, I may just need a deep breath and cover A & B in hugs and kisses to know "it's all ok".

I can say that even though their birth was one of the scariest moments in my life, it was also the greatest. And perhaps the happiest (though that might have been all the pain meds talking).

Sometimes I wish I knew why we were one of the "lucky" ones and why so many others had to endure such pain. (Sometimes I often wonder if we'd get so lucky again.) I pray one day that "why" can be replaced with life and hope. The hope that one day we can end prematurity and save more of these amazing little heroes - that those survivors live a full life after the NICU. For me, part of healing has been found in advocating, raising awareness and supporting others.

So to those families still in the thick of the NICU, the days are long (and hard). It's worth it no doubt. And it does get just a little easier as time goes on. Reach out to those around you, those that have went before you and when you're ready - support those who will no doubt come after you. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

Being a Preemie Mom

Did it change me? Would I be any different (as a mom) then I am today?

I don't know for sure. In my heart I feel like I would have always remembered to live in the moment and cherish their childhood. Perhaps it was the solemn vow I took as a women battling Infertility in my early 20's, who watched countless parents neglect their children, that changed me.

I'll never know because this is the only life I've known. I don't have older children that weren't preemies to say I parented them differently before A & B came along. What I do know is that I am giving this my very best shot.

And perhaps for me there are things that seem HUGE that well frankly aren't HUGE to anyone else. Yes some of that I do know comes from the preemie mom in me. Watching a little one pounder in an incubator fight for life and wonder "will they or walk or talk, go to school or ride a bike". We knew the statistics, we
were aware of how different things could be. So to see them do "simple" things just blows me away.

In the last two weeks alone I have been reminded a thousand times over of the two miracles we have been trusted with. From Blake totally acing a developmental eval. To the simply amazing growth, development wise, that Addison has shown. It wasn't all that long ago that we had concerns about her attention span (or lack there of) and her "safety awareness" (otherwise known as "I shouldn't jump from the top of the playground with no one to catch me). And now? Well she sat through an entire movie in a movie theater, she will sit through a short book and stick with a puzzle or craft for more then 2 seconds and is easily drawn back in.

For lack of a better phrase, she seems to be acting more and more age appropriate. Which is what the hope was for her, hence why we are still in 3 different therapies 1-2 times a week. She is becoming more and more determined to accomplish difficult tasks instead of just walking away like she has been known to do in the past. 

I stood in amazement at the park while she climbed a ladder to reach the top of the structure and swung from monkey bars. She walked a balance beam and chased after her PT like you wouldn't believe. Just a few short months ago we had concerns about her balance and she couldn't take many steps without stumbling and falling.

We've been in speech/special instruction for nearly a year. Sometimes we have to consciously encourage Addison to use her "big girl words" and use more then two word phrases. Then nights like tonight, she tells me "Goodnight. Love you to moon and back." I know we're moving in the right direction.

She has her "big girl" eval coming up in October and I am interested to see how the gap between her developmental skills and age has narrowed. This might actually be the first one that I walk away from without feeling completely defeated or hopeless. 

And Blake, well he proves to be a great role model for his sister. She loves to do the things he does and he encourages her (always has) to "aim high". Though sometimes this gets them into a little mischief. I love how helpful he is, and how much he enjoys doing "chores". Now I just hope he remembers how much he loves to do laundry when he is oh say about 13 ;)

All of this just blows me away and overwhelms my heart (in a positive way) daily. There is always a constant reminder that we are blessed beyond measure. And I couldn't be more proud.