We Upgraded

Something happens when your baby moves out of the plastic crib, and into a real one.

Life. Life happens.

Suddenly, we’re not living day-to-day, just trying to make it. We’re not living life on the time-table of nurses and doctors and the schedule of the hospital. The lights don’t go off at 9, and come on at 7.

We decide, because, we’re home.

It’s daunting and terrifying and jarring and surreal and different being at home, making our own decisions. It’s also glorious and freeing and normal.

This feeling we feel now, as a family, is so under appreciated by most people. The fact that I can dance around with Jackson, wire-free, makes me smile absolutely every single day. Feeling my daughter’s sense of security come creeping back makes me tear up. She doesn’t feel the need to be attached to some part of my body, because she is finally coming to understand that we’re not leaving again.

The summer is over. The worst summer in the history of my life, and my husband’s life, and Sydney’s life, is over. The only season Jack has experienced so far will hopefully be the worst one he ever will. Hopefully, from now until he takes his last breath as an old man, every summer from here on out only gets better.

It looks like it’s happening that way, too.

Yesterday, for the first time in his life, he had a doctor’s visit that didn’t result in us hearing some terrible new news, or that required extra testing. Everything wrong with him has been found. It’s being managed; quite well, I might add.

He is doing everything he is supposed to for his age, except hold his head up, due to his former inability to practice tummy-time, because of his heart surgery. He’s been cleared for that now… however, he hates it. Ha!

But, he tracks objects with his eyes. He turns to sounds. He smiles. He grasps things and pulls then to his mouth.

His heart is working beautifully, and in today’s ultrasound, it looked gorgeous. It was just the right size, it was pumping blood quietly, helping it all go in the right directions. In the words of his cardiologist, his heart is now the “least of our worries.”

It’s about damn time.

Because, our other worries are not that big. His one kidney? Working like a champ. His eye? Closing on its own. His hernia repair still looks amazing. I’m becoming a whiz at handling all of his feeding tube supplies and care– it’s not near as big of a deal as I thought it was going to be. We can do this. Plus, he starts speech therapy to work on his swallow next week. His hand? It’s all he knows, and it’s all he will know. He’ll be fine.

And, when he has questions, worries or concerns, he has a a great ally to turn to later on. For that, I couldn’t be more grateful.

We are back home. We are beginning our journey as a true family of four, under one roof. A journey that should have been started much sooner, but life happens. Stuff happens. Shitty stuff happens.

But, we pushed through. And, we made it. It’s easy to look back and talk about it now, but when we were in the trenches… I didn’t think I was going to make it. I didn’t know if my marriage was going to make it. I didn’t know if our daughter was going to make it.

We’re tough, though, almost as tough as Jackson. We are slowly becoming the family we were meant to be, with some slight modifications.

My baby survived 90 days in the NICU, three surgeries– including open heart surgery– a heart cath, two swallow study functions, two MRI’s, and a bronchial scope. His bill came out to be over $908,000.

He’s our fighter. He is the reason we, as a family, are still standing. Because, how could we have given up, when someone so tiny was fighting so hard?

Impossible.

We ❤ you, our brave little man.

When Grandparents Lose Their Appeal

Originally published on EverydayFamily:

“As a military family, we are incredibly fortunate to be stationed only a few hours from our parents; it’s very rare. We have always taken full advantage of the closeness, with us driving down at least once or twice a month, or my parents coming up on long weekends. They adore their granddaughter, and, believe me, the feeling is mutual.

So, when Jackson was first admitted into the NICU at a children’s hospital a mere 20 minutes from my parent’s house, it seemed like the ideal situation (well, as ideal as that situation can be). My mom, a school teacher, had recently been released for summer break, and she would be able to care for my daughter and keep things as normal as possible while we tended to our son. My parents weren’t strangers to her; they were her second-favorite couple in the world (second only to her mommy and daddy!).

And, for a while, she couldn’t have cared less where her father and I were. If we were there, great; if not, whatever! She had her Grannie to play in the pool with during the day, and her Granddaddy to play horses and princesses with at night, plus all the chocolate milk she could ask for. Life was as good as it gets, for a toddler.

But, as the saying goes, there really can be too much of a good thing. Disney World would even lose its appeal if you lived there 24/7.”

Continue Reading

Forget Your Keys, Not Your Kid

Originally published on ManyKindRegards:

“I can’t count the number of times I have left my phone somewhere, or forgot where I put it down. Once, when I was 15 and on a family vacation, I left my brand new Nokia in a bathroom stall at Seaworld. It was gone, forever, and I couldn’t text my boyfriend for four ENTIRE days. It was pure hell.

And, my keys! Don’t even get me started. I had a locksmith on speed dial for a few years because I could not grasp the concept of grabbing them before hitting the lock button on the door and shutting it, moments before realizing they were in the cup holder. I had put them there to apply some chapstick, and BAM! Out of sight, out of mind.

But, and here is a really, really big caveat: I did not have an emotional attachment to these items. I did not carry my iPhone in my womb for nine months. I did not spend 22 hours in labor giving birth to my keys. It’s okay that I forget them places. Scary places.

Like a hot car.

Even then, Apple warns you to take care of your iPhone, and that “overheated” screen pops up after you’ve forgotten your phone while you were at the movies. That screen that kind of paralyzes you a bit, because you’re not due for an upgrade yet.

Guess what? Babies don’t come with overheated screens. Overheated babies die. They die a horrible, gruesome, torturous death, trapped in a large metal oven with a Chevrolet logo on it.

It’s Time

Ninety-seven days ago, I was driving on the dark streets of Wichita Falls, panicked and distraught. Somewhere close, a plane, carrying my husband and our 11-day-old son, was taking off for Cook’s Children’s hospital. I pulled into my driveway and flew into the house.

The remnants of a party– my sister’s college graduation celebration– were still visible, with empty party platters stacked on the counter, too big for the trash can.

My mom came in from around the corner, carrying my overnight bag, as well as a smaller one for my husband. We talked in hushed voices, as not to wake my daughter, about what was happening: yes, he was being medically flown, while I would meet them there. We weren’t exactly sure what was going on… but it wasn’t good.

I grabbed a few extra toiletries, my pillow, and my pain medication– I had just had a c-section and wasn’t fully healed; technically, not even cleared to drive yet. But, we do what we have to do.

And, then I turned, and left. I backed our of my driveway on May 10 at 4 a.m., and drove off. It would be the last time I was at my own house… until tomorrow.

Tomorrow, I will step through the front door again to that house I drove away from, frantically, nearly 100 days ago. I will not be the same person I was before, either.

I have changed; I have emotional scars.
I am a little more cynical, a little more jaded.
A little less naïve.

My son has changed since he last saw his home, as well. He has only changed for the better, though.

He is no longer fighting to oxygenate his body.
His heart is no longer working triple-time to keep him alive.
He is pink.
He is alert.
He is ready to be a part of a family, our family, and grow and mature. He’s ready to move on.

Our daughter is ready to walk through that door again. She is ready for a routine that involves both of her parents, that involves her room and her things, that involves seeing her puppy each day.

She is ready for some normalcy. We all are.

Now, “normal” may mean “chaos” for awhile. Our little boy’s feeding and medication schedule is slightly overwhelming and keeps me on my toes… as if having a 3-year-old doesn’t do that already.

But, it’s time. It will be emotional walking through that door, as I remember leaving last time in absolute terror. But, in order to create new, fresh and wonderful memories to replace the scary ones… I have to take that step.

I’m ready.

By the way…

More detailed post to come, but…

HE. IS. HOME!

🙂

It’s Just Breathing

Before I had kids, there were two things that annoyed me about parents.

1. Describing their child’s age in months.

2. Being proud of them for something everyone learns how to do, like clap their hands, or walk.

I don’t know why those things bothered me, but they did. I would roll my eyes as one of my Facebook friends went on and on about how their little darling learned to roll over, and how damn proud they were of them. Duh, have you ever met an adult that couldn’t roll over?

Then, I had Sydney. And, I was proud of her from the moment she took her first breath.

I was proud of her when she passed the newborn hearing screening, I was proud of her for not screaming when they checked her blood sugar, I was proud of her for looking so cute in her car seat.

I was proud to call her mine. I’m still proud of that fact, and of everything she has done up to this point in her life.

Then, Jack came along, and my pride became even more microscopic. Even more detailed. Even more tedious.

I’m proud of every single breath he takes at a rhythmic pace.
I’m proud of every single oxygen atom that brings his total to 100%.
I’m proud of his right kidney, which is working so hard to pee for two.
I’m proud of all five of his small fingers on his little hand for moving and growing and persevering to be used.
I’m proud of his sweet, sweet heart that was sliced open and patched up and recovered so well.

This is why parents are proud. Newborns know nothing. Even healthy newborns start from the beginning, learning absolutely everything it takes to survive in our world. Sometimes babies, like Jackson, need help doing even the most basic of things, and when they succeed, it’s the most magical of moments.

To see Jackson’s breathing rate consistently stay in the normal range makes me want to cry. I can’t tear my eyes away from the number on the screen sometimes. I marvel at it. It’s beautiful to watch.

41. 46. 52. 44. Gorgeous.

I am proud of him now, and I always will be. Every breath he takes for the rest of his life is a reminder that there was a time when he scared me. When his breathing– just that simple, mundane act– was a source of pain, frustration, and worry.

Parents take nothing their children do for granted. Everything from breathing to walking to talking to coloring to climbing trees to riding a bike to mastering their multiplication tables to learning from their mistakes; we are proud of it all.

Even the silly, most mundane things, like turning oxygen into carbon dioxide. I am so proud of that.

I’m a mom.

What Do We Tell Sydney?

Originally published on EverydayFamily:

“The night before my scheduled c-section, I cried as I carried my daughter to her bed. This was her last night as an only child, and she had absolutely no idea.

Would she be able to handle the transition to big sister? Would it be difficult? Would she hate him? Would it scar her forever?

Clearly, I was overthinking things, as siblings have been born and integrated into families seamlessly for years, but, hey, I was an emotional, 40-week pregnant woman. I had a lot on my mind.

Initially, bringing him home was fine. As long as she could still watch her Peppa Pig in either my or her father’s lap, she was content.

Then… things got crazy. “

Continue Reading

6 Ways to Know You’re a Great Parent

1. You Think You’re a Terrible Parent
Unfortunately, the crappy parents think they’re doing an awesome job as their kid edges closely to the electrical socket with a fork, while the awesome parents lie awake in bed, analyzing every aspect of their parenting decision for the day. It’s one of life’s little jokes. If you’re doing things right, you’re paralyzed with fear you’re doing everything wrong. Congrats!

2. You Feel Guilty Taking Even a Moment For Yourself
That pedicure massage chair can only do so much– you do have to relax every now and then. While kids become 99% of our world after we have them, we do have to leave a tiny slice of time for ourselves… guilt-free time.

3. Your Kid Throws An Over-the-Top Tantrum When You Tell Her No
Yeah, people may look at you and judge you for having the kid who’s covering her face and wailing into her hands because you won’t let her have a stuffed My Slutty Little Pony (seriously, what happened to that show?), but the important part is you are teaching her that she can’t have whatever she wants, whenever she wants it. It’s called tough love, and DANG, it sure is tough on us as parents because we want to give them everything their precious heart desires. But, then they grow up thinking they can act like Paris Hilton and… no. Just, no.

4. People Have Deleted You From Facebook Because You Brag About Your Kid So Much
Yes, you’re one of those parents. Those annoying, look-how-cute-my-son-is-eating-a-grilled-cheese, taking pictures of their every waking moment, completely obnoxious parents. Can you help it if you gave birth to a genius child and just want to share them with the world? Who needs those Facebook friends if they don’t get how amazing your prodigy is (and, let’s face it, they got their awesomeness from you).

5. You Have Hidden in the Bathroom to Eat a Cookie in Peace
While this may sound selfish, it’s actually selfless. See, this kind of falls under that “taking a moment for yourself” category. If your kids see you eating a cookie, they’ll want one, and that’s not healthy, so you’re really doing this for the good of their bodies. And, dammit, it’s the last Oreo, and you called it!

6. You Sometimes Accidentally Wake Them Up Because You Make Noise While Watching Them Sleep
Is there anything more angelic than a sleeping child? The long lashes, the look of total peacefulness… the closed mouth? Can you help it if you have to sneeze right in the middle of your adoration? Awesome parents can barely rip their eyes away from their kids. It’s like a magnet.

You’re a great parent. Hang in there. I keep having to tell myself that, even.