July 22, 2011

Mrs. Hardy's Honey

I spent most of my life thinking that the perfect job for me was a “stay at home mom.”  As a middle schooler and high schooler, I assumed that you went to college, fell in love, got married, bought a house, and then starting having babies.  Well, fortunately God knew that was a silly plan for me and had much better things in store.  Over the past ten years or so, I’ve found myself passionate about a career (and a calling) that I tried desperately to avoid.  My mom had been a teacher, both of my grandmothers were teachers, it seemed somehow too easy or too obvious a choice.  But after dabbling in some other things, it became clear to me that if you love children more than anything else in this world then being a teacher is just what you ought to do.  Besides, our schools desperately need smart and hard working people in them.  (Wow, that sounded a little pompous; but it’s true.)  And I love it.  I love watching kids figure things out and problem solve and learn about their world and each other.  I love their eyes when they listen to you read a story aloud or the pride in their voices when they share something they’ve written.  There’s no high better than seeing a child learn how to read and learn to love to read.  It’s the best!  So, a career that I kind of fell into has become a big part of who I am.  It’s more than just a job; it’s a passion and truly a calling for me.  A lot of how I define myself is as an educator.  I love my students and their families.  I am blessed to work at a fabulous school with a wonderfully supportive and loving community.  It’s such a great situation and a source of so much joy that I actually struggled a lot with the decision of whether I should stay home with Clara.  However, this old dream isn’t dead yet either.  The past month of being at home with her and learning who she is and what she needs so intimately has been one of the greatest adventures of my life.  Especially after our beginning, I just can’t quite imagine handing her off to someone else for eight hours a day right now.  Plus, when cold and flu season hits this fall and winter, it’s probably best for her fragile little lung to not be in daycare.  So, we’ve planned for a different kind of budget and are stepping out on faith a little for me to take a one year leave of absence and devote the 2011-2012 school year to Clara Mae.  Again, I’m fortunate that my county will hold a spot for me in my same school for a year so I can return to what I love.  But I’m so thankful for this opportunity to be a full time mom and give all I’ve got to Clara and our family and our household for a year.  What a privilege and a responsibility I won’t take lightly.  I’m also fortunate to have been asked to teach one undergraduate class in the education department at Salem College this fall – Children’s Literature.  So I’ll get to keep my toes dipped into the world of education a little (and make enough money to cover the health insurance.)

Perhaps you know how kitchy elementary school teachers can be.  We love us some themes and some coordinating colored bulletin boards and well, you get the picture.  I used to call my students “Mrs. Hardy’s Honeys” and my kindergarten classroom was all honeybee themed.  I have to say, it was pretty stinkin’ cute. 

But not quite as cute as this new Hardy’s honey:

Spit bubbles are my new favorite thing

Sleepy eye rubs

 Here's to 12 more months of my undivided attention, Clara!  You're the sweetest Hardy's Honey I've ever had.

July 16, 2011

If at first you don't succeed...

Try, try again.

Dr. Satterwhite told us at the appointment on Thursday that we could stop attempting bottles.  We'd tried close to a dozen different varieties ranging from $4 to $35 each and they had all failed.  Bottles that claimed to be designed "just like the breast" clearly were not and Clara was not only uninterested, she was down right mad about it.  It got to the point where she just saw a bottle coming and starting howling.  We had also tried sippy cups, even though most babies don't start those until at least four months, because we'd been told by doctors and lactation consultants that some babies go straight to sippy cups.  It would have been so nice if Clara could take a bottle for several reasons.  A) We have forty-some gallons of frozen breastmilk stored up from three months of pumping while she was in the hospital. B) With her eating every 2-2.5 hours it's hard for me to go much of anywhere or do much of anything without it being time for another feeding.  C) The attempt to get "extra calories" in by adding some powdered formula to the breast milk is futile if you can't then get that concoction in her somehow.  Alas, the many attempts to get her to take a bottle or sippy cup were all epic fails and it was becoming quite discouraging and more than a little frustrating.  So we were kind of relieved to hear him say that we could just quit fighting that battle.

Excuse me?  Did somebody say "quit?"  Ummm, that's not how I roll.

On the way up to the mountains this weekend I ran into the Rite Aid to look for gripe water because I'd heard it could cure hiccups (that's another story....).  Well the mountain Rite Aid didn't have gripe water, but while I was on the baby aisle I looked at their drug store selection of bottles.  We'd tried most of them except the playtex drop ins and I had a vague memory that somebody somewhere had said that these worked for their breastfed baby {Sidenote: People are passionate about their preferred bottle of choice.  They will recommend their bottle system in an instant and swear that it is the best thing ever for a myriad of reasons.  I will listen to this advice and buy one of each bottle.  They will all fail.}  It was four bucks, so I picked it up.

Yesterday it was just my mom, Clara and me hanging out up here in the mountains.  It was rainy, quiet and dark.  When Clara was waking up from a nap, still swaddled and half asleep, I handed her over to Mom and gave her the playtex bottle while I said sarcastically, "I'm sure this is going to be the magic bottle that she just guzzles right down." 

Well, you guessed it.  She sure did.  I had only put one ounce in there, but she drank that whole thing down without hesitation like she'd been a bottle baby all her life.  Un. Be. Lievable. 

Thinking that surely it was just a fluke, we offered the bottle three more times yesterday and each time she took a little more than the time before.  Now, she's still not up to a full feeding via the bottle yet, but holy toledo.  There's hope!  I might get to go have a haircut some day!  Or renew my driver's license!  Or go on a date! 

We haven't tried the formula concoction yet... we want to be sure that this is firmly established before switching it up.  But it's so nice to see how prayers are answered daily, even more small miracles instead of big ones, and even in the form of a baby bottle.  Thank you God for the engineers at Playtex who thought up the Drop In Bottle System.  We are so thrilled. 
Robert taking down 2-3 days worth of pumped milk during our hospital time...

A sampling of the many bottles we've tried.  There are at least three others I can think of, not pictured here.

Plus sippy cups!
Thank you, God for Playtex drop ins!  Hallelujah!

July 14, 2011

C-?! We'll take it!

Dr. S was kind enough to break it down into teacher talk for me today... he said, "Well, you passed.  But it's not an A+."  I've always kind of been an A+ kind of gal, but if a C- keeps that ng tube out, I'll take it!  Clara weighed in at 12 pounds, 4 ounces, up seven ounces in two weeks.  He would have liked to have seen double that - 14 ounces or an ounce a day.  But at least it was a gain, so he was okay with us leaving the tube out and continuing to breastfeed like a crazy lady.  Because that is in fact what I do.  Almost all I do.  We're also going to try to start introducing some rice cereal.  I can't believe I'm gonna start this little baby on SOLIDS, but if it will help her pack on the pounds, we'll give it a shot.  She may not really be ready yet, but hopefully starting to introduce it some now will help her catch on sooner rather than  later. 

So, she was at about 75th percentile when she was born.  After all the medical hoopla, she dropped down to about the 25th percentile.  She's been hanging in pretty steady there until these past few weeks and she's dropped to about the 21st percentile.  Now, of course she's still on the chart which is good and she hasn't had a dramatic drop, but they'd like to see her continue to track along at least the 25th percentile, or even better start to inch closer to the 50th.  It's going to take more than half an ounce a day gain for that to happen.

We're likely going to be battling this weight gain issue for awhile.  It seems that this is the last lingering problem for most babies with a diaphragmatic hernia.  It's just an indication that although she's healthy in many many ways, she is still a chronically sick baby with a medical history that puts her a little behind.  The good news is that she's happy - I mean really happy, that she's growing (I swear her clothes are getting tighter, regardless of what the scale may say), and that she's changing and achieving developmental milestones almost daily.  She has plenty of wet and poopy diapers.  So the big picture is she's doing okay, at least in my book.  We'll be back in a couple of weeks for another weigh in and I'm guessing this feeling of worry and dread is going to continue to hang over us for awhile. 

Thanks for continuing to pray for Clara to fatten up! 

July 13, 2011

Wait for Weight

Well, the wait to see if Clara has gained the weight she needs to is nearly over.  We head back to the pediatrician tomorrow for another weigh-in.  It will have been two weeks since her last one so he will wanting to see 14 ounces.  I do think she's been gaining some, but I'm kind of skeptical that it's going to be that much, so I'm a little anxious and worried and nervous about the appointment.  If she hasn't gained enough, the ng tube will have to go back in for awhile.  I hate that tube.  Your prayers for weight are appreciated!  We'll let you know tomorrow what the verdict is. 

July 9, 2011

Things I Love

Time is already passing so fast with Clara.  I just want to freeze things where we are and enjoy the last few days and weeks of her “infant” stage because I can feel it starting to slip away already.  Maybe it’s because I missed out on so much of it during her hospital stay, but I just feel like it can’t possibly be time yet for her to be outgrowing clothes (check), holding up her head (check), trying to roll over (check), and kicking her legs like an Olympic swimmer (check).  I know that the next stage will bring fun and exciting new things of its own, but I’m trying hard to savor the moments now that I love so much and know won’t last forever.

Things I Love:

The way her whole face erupts in a giant grin when I get near and talk to her.
The way she looks swaddled up in her baby burrito for sleeping.
Her fingers curled around mine while she nurses
The feeling of victory when I coax a “man burp” out of her.
The way she grabs on to blankets and loveys or her dress and holds on for dear life.
The smiles on her face as she drifts off to sleep
Milk on her cheek after she finishes eating.
Her beautiful hands always held together now, and often in her mouth.
Teeny tiny baby sneezes, coughs and hiccups
Her big blue wide eyes, still taking in everything around her.
Big stretches when she wakes up and is freed from her swaddle.
Seeing her Daddy hold her and look at her like she’s the best thing that’s ever happened to him.
Watching Sweet Mama sing to her and listening to her try to sing along.
Listening to Big Daddy talk baby talk to her and delight each time she laughs at him.
Rocking her.
Smelling her after bath and lotion when there’s no sour milk, just sweet sweet baby.
And I think very best of all, holding her while she sleeps soundly with her face nuzzled in my chest. 

There have been some moments the past week where she has shown that same fighting spirit that has allowed her to be alive today, but instead of fighting for her life she’s fighting me.  Fighting to eat, fighting to sleep…  Since I’m tired too, it’s not hard to feel overwhelmed with her determination.  But I’ve just been reminding myself that her stubborn personality is what saved her life and to thank God in those moments for her strong will.  And for each one of those moments, there are dozens like the ones listed above.  My heart is full of love for this sweet thing and I’m cherishing what’s left of the new baby moments.  Pretty soon she’s going to be full of personality and there’s no telling what new things I’ll grow to love and cherish.  

July 6, 2011

Fourth of July

Clara got to wear a matching dress with her cousin Caroline!

 And be doted on by all four grandparents...



And Mom and Dad, too...

It was a grand Fourth of July celebration complete with all things red, white and blue...

And the love of good friends and family...

Of course, I couldn't resist a little photo shoot of my own, with Clara in her flag dress and also in her ladybug outfit, bought by her Great Great Aunt Shirley for Cousin Caroline's first Fourth of July last year and passed on to Clara for this year. 

We're thankful for this great country, the freedoms that we have and the blessings of summer celebration with all of us together!  Happy Fourth of July!
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