Tuesday, November 26, 2013


I wake up to a crying, hungry baby and a whining 2-year-old. I have slept sporadically, waking every 2 to 3 hours to feed the baby. I change the 2-year-old and try to get her dressed, but she throws a fit, refusing to take off her pajama shirt. Fine. Whatever.

We eat breakfast. This helps the 2-year-old's mood. I finally go upstairs to wash up and get dressed. The baby is crying again. The 2-year-old is underfoot in the bathroom, watching me do everything, trying to "help" me wash my face and get dressed.

We get ready to leave. We are going to the library. It is a battle to get the 2-year-old out the door. Why is it so hard to put on your shoes? It is not that hard. I wonder why I am bothering, because I am only going the library so the 2-year-old has something fun to do, and it just seems to lead to me yelling at her about her gosh darn shoes. Then I think about the alternative, not going anywhere, staying home with both of them all day, and I decide it's worth it.

We come home. We eat lunch. The baby is sleeping.

After lunch, the 2-year-old goes down for her nap. The baby wakes up. Of course.

The 2-year-old wakes up from her nap way too early. I count the minutes until the husband comes home. It is never soon enough.


I have been on an emotional roller coaster lately. I am either really high or really low. I have moments throughout the day of just being so happy! Clare is so funny! My neighborhood is so nice! Christmas is coming!

And then, the bottom falls out. I am not talking to other adults. Christopher is still sleeping intermittently at night. I'll never feel rested again. I want a glass of wine and I can't have one. I am bored. I have no time to myself. I just feel so blah. So so blah. I want to cry.


I know it is temporary. I know it is temporary. I know it is temporary. It doesn't feel temporary.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Four Weeks

Yesterday marked four weeks since Christopher's surgery, and the end of his recovery period. He has recovered beautifully - no infection, no problems with the incision site, no other serious illness. He will still be following up with a cardiologist once a month or so for the next year, but to say I am relieved that we made it through this four week period without incident would be an understatement. We were restricted from picking him up under the arms for the past four weeks so that we wouldn't disturb the incision site, which is on his left side. Based on how he has been sleeping lately, I don't think it is bothering him one bit:

Now I am just hoping and praying that things continue to go well, that his aorta doesn't narrow again, that he can come off his blood pressure medication in a few weeks, and that he continues to be the alert, (mostly) happy boy he is starting to be. And I might ease my hand sanitizer policy a bit. Just a bit.

Social smiles!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Clare Update

I was really worried about how Clare would adjust to her new sibling. And it has been a challenge in some ways. She just loves her brother, though. She is so sweet with him: talking to him, trying to soothe him, showing him how to do things. He calms down if she talks to him when he is crying. She has also been a great helper to me - getting out diapers, bringing me baby wipes, grabbing a blanket from another room. Each morning when I go in to get her out of bed, the first thing out of her mouth is "Where's Christopher?"

It has not all been smooth sailing, however. She is definitely more quick to throw a tantrum. She is very clingy to me. She gets very nervous if I go anywhere without her. (This is probably stemming from my two hospital stays last month - I was away from home much more frequently than I've ever been before.) I can tell she misses having my undivided attention.  And the other day we got the first definitively negative comment about Christopher, in the form of a request for him to "go bye-bye."

I think all of the reading we did prebaby actually helped. She will quote things from this book by Fred Rogers in particular. (I highly, HIGHLY recommend it for anyone who is expecting a second or third child, it is a bit old school, but you can just hear Mr. Rogers' voice on each page.) I am sure there will be many bumps in the road, but for now I can say that Clare is adjusting very well. I underestimated her once again.

In other Clare news, the two things she wants to know lately are where various family members' houses are, and what is the first, middle and last name of just about everybody she sees. (Including people on Sesame Street and in books.) She knows her first and middle name, but sometimes struggles to remember her last name. As for the directions, that conversation always goes the same way:

Clare: "Where is Meemaw's house?"
Me: "Shorewood."
Clare: "Where's Shorewood?"
Me: "West of here."
Clare: "Where's west of here?"
Me, pointing: "That way."
Clare, pointing in a different direction: "That way?"

She can count to 11 and can point out several letters by sight. Her speech is great. She has been doing a lot of imaginative play. She loves ECFE, especially the art projects. I am going to get her some more art supplies for Christmas. She still loves music: she sings and dances and plays the piano every chance she gets. Oh, and she informed me the other day, unprompted, that she likes the Packers AND the Vikings. Fine, I GUESS.

Her next challenge: potty training! Dun, Dun, DUN! Oh, and finally giving up that Nuk. But the less said about that the better.

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Faces of Christopher




Sad, otherwise known as "Why am I not eating?"


Coming up next: The Sounds of Christopher: Is He Actually Part Exotic Bird?

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Christopher's Heart

When the pediatrician heard a murmur while listening to Christopher's heart right after he was born, I wasn't particularly concerned. Clare had one, too, and it was nothing serious. Then, his own pediatrician suggested we see a pediatric cardiologist, just in case. So we went, Christopher and I. He had an extensive exam, including an Echo. When the doctor came into the room to discuss the results, I fully expected her to say everything was fine, so when she unceremoniously announced that there was a problem with his heart that would require surgery, my own heart sank all the way to my feet.

The defect is called coarctation of the aorta, which is a small narrowing in the aorta. In terms of heart defects, it is a relatively minor one, but no heart surgery is minor. The doctor assured me that he would recover fully, and go on to have a normal life. I sobbed the whole way home.

This was on October 14. The surgery was scheduled for October 25. The eleven days in between were tough, although the more I talked to people about the surgery and the situation, the more success stories I heard, the better I felt. I still didn't feel good about the situation, but hearing those stories helped ease the worry a bit. It also helped that I have such a supportive family (my mom, mother-in-law, and Ben's aunt Sally were indispensable throughout this ordeal) and a wonderful group of friends - all of the emails, texts, and phone calls really helped. And the food.

The morning of the surgery was awful. I barely slept the night before. While we were waiting for the surgeon, I had a strong urge to just leave the hospital. The nurse warned me that the hardest part would be when they took Christopher away. She was right. I was holding him in my arms, and when they reached for him I almost didn't let him go.

While we were waiting, we received updates from the operating room. Everything was going fine. I tried hard to distract myself, to not think about the fact that my baby was lying on an operating table while a surgeon repaired his heart. Ben and I talked about home improvement projects. The procedure itself only took about 15 minutes, but it was about 3 hours from the time they took Christopher away to the time the surgeon came to see us in the waiting room. When he walked into the room, I was immediately looking at his face, trying to read his body language, irrationally thinking he was going to deliver bad news. In fact, it was the opposite: he was thrilled with how the procedure went. He was confident that Christopher would be completely fine. I was incredibly relieved.

Then, we went to the ICU, and saw this:

It was so sad, seeing him laying there, tubes everywhere, machines beeping. I didn't know what to do, really. Finally, the nurse told me I could touch him. I spent some time just rubbing his head. Soon, though, his breathing tube was removed, and he started waking up. I couldn't nurse him, but he took breast milk through a bottle. That Friday night, I actually got a good night sleep thanks to the Ronald McDonald House. (The House in Children's Hospital is like a hotel.) And things just started getting better. The doctors were pleased with his recovery, and he was obviously one of the healthiest babies on the floor. (I tried not to look too closely into the other rooms - it was too heartbreaking.)

Finally, more than 30 hours after his surgery, I got to hold him.

By Saturday night, a few more of his tubes were removed, and he got comfy on the bed.

I was finally able to nurse him on Sunday. We were both very happy about that. It was hard at first, since he was still connected to various monitors and had a central line, but we still managed to snuggle.

Clare was not allowed to visit her brother in the hospital (children under 5 are not allowed on the patient floors), but she did have dinner with me in the cafeteria a few times. She was always happy to see me, and always asked where her brother was. She had a great time with both of her grandmas ("Two meemaws!" she said), but she was pretty happy when Christopher and I were finally home and things were back to normal, at least for her. 

Christopher was released from the hospital the Monday following his surgery. This was a very short hospital stay for a heart patient.  I can't say enough about how great the staff was at Minneapolis Children's Hospital, especially the nurses. And they were pretty thrilled with Christopher, too. They kept telling me how cute he is, and one of them told me they never get them "this healthy." The next four weeks are his recovery period - we just need to watch for infection and keep an eye on the incision site. He will also be on blood pressure medication for at least another month, but will hopefully be weaned after that.

We had a follow up appointment this past Monday. He had a chest x-ray and another Echo. This time, I was nervous while waiting for the doctor to come into the room to tell me the results of his Echo.

"Everything looks great," she said. "He's perfect." We think so, too.

Monday, November 4, 2013

One Month

We are in the thick of it here. House: trashed. Me: unshowered, covered in milk, spit up, etc. All of us: exhausted. Except Christopher, who sleeps whenever he feels like it, which is definitely not between the hours of 10 p.m. and 2 a.m.

I hope we can figure out this day/night reversal thing soon, but I also want him to sleep as much as possible, since he is still recovering from surgery. The poor guy also has problems with gas and reflux. So he is a bit grumpy. He has been grumpy since he was born, and am I not sure if this is due to the gas, the reflux, the surgery, or if it is just his disposition. And God forbid you move him when he is settled. You will be at the receiving end of all of his rage. His lungs work fine.

He is a big boy. He is already well over 11 pounds; in the 96th percentile for height and weight, and quite the little piggy. He eats about 30 ounces a day. Luckily, I can keep up, for now.

He is becoming more alert every day. It is fun to see him start to take in the world. He reacts to the sound of his sister's voice - spinning his head around to look for her. Clare told my mom the other day that she needed to be careful with Christopher, because he is fragile and has a floppy head. In reality, though, his head is not that floppy. The boy is strong, and already heaves himself back and forth and can very nearly hold up his head on his own. I am not that worried that he hates tummy time as much as Clare did at his age.

Having a newborn is both harder and easier this time. Easier, because I am not as worried about every little thing (although that kind of went out the window with the heart situation), but much harder because I have to take care of Clare at the same time. I so wish she was in daycare during the day. We are managing, but I really don't like this newborn stage. I know it is temporary, but I am just so tired, it is hard to remember how fast it goes. I feel so out of touch with the outside world and myself. I am just the local dairy bar, snack-giver, and butt wiper. Nothing more. When I am feeling especially stressed, though, I just breath in his new baby smell. And eat chocolate. Lots of chocolate.