one year later

Our first glimpse of our second daughter. There was obviously no laying of the baby on mother’s chest right after birth (seeing as how I didn’t give birth to her!), but I can’t imagine these moments being any more special than they were that day.

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Wires and lights were everywhere. I couldn’t even see her eyes, at first!

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The moment I knew love multiplies.

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Our first family of four photo while standing by Sweet Pea’s NICU bedside.

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Finally she is off the lights and can be held for feedings!

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In her Daddy’s arms. Notice the furrowed brow, her paci, the swaddle and her little hand coming out – she needed her Miracle Blanket!! That was her “look” for many weeks.

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First time holding my two girls. God has been so faithful to me this year as I mothered these two precious girls. I questioned God’s timing in bringing us another baby, but now, I know His plan was – and is – perfection.

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The special doctor God gave Sweet Pea in my absence. I worried about her being all alone in the hospital before I could get there, but she was well taken care of by Dr. R – one of the best doctors I have ever met.

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I don’t miss a thing when I take pictures, so it doesn’t surprise me that I took a picture of the NICU sign right outside the door. This picture reminds me that I’ve never experienced a “normal” birth with a healthy drug-free baby. But you know what? I haven’t missed a thing in this life because this is the path God has placed me on and these are the babies God gave me – and I don’t want my life to be “normal”.

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What a tiny little peanut! After just nine days in the NICU, Sweet Pea was well enough to come home! That, in and of itself, was a miracle as we were fully prepared for a lengthy stay with her.

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God is faithful. All the time, He is faithful.

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This past year is just another chapter of my life where the faithfulness of God is visible on every page.

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I thank the Lord for the healing He has brought upon this sweet baby.

peak into my feelings

I hesitate to even put this into writing because I am well aware that there are way worse things that could be going on with my baby right now.

Such as life-threatening diseases.

Or a condition that will stay with her the rest of her life.

But, yesterday and today I just felt “down” and I know it is because for the past 6 months my life has revolved around nurturing Sweet Pea and getting her over the humps that come along with drug exposure in the womb.

I remember feeling this way when Little Bug was born, too.

While I do not have any control over what my daughters were exposed to in the womb, I have every bit of control once they are placed in my arms to do every single thing possible to make their time of withdrawal as “smooth” as possible.

The best way I know how to do this is to basically shield my babies from the outside world until their little nervous system has time to heal and they can handle the stimulation of the world beyond our home.

So that is exactly what I do and it takes it’s toll on me because, while I have certainly not been a hermit in our home for the past 6 months, life is drastically different than it was half a year ago.

I am so ready for Sweet Pea to be a “normal” baby that can go and do every day normal activities without overstimulation becoming an issue!

The good news is we are almost there. Her overstimulation issues peaked at the beginning of December when she started freaking out anytime we were with a group of people for Christmas parties. And now, at 6 months old, I know we are nearly at the end of this road and it won’t be long and life can resume to “normal”, once again.

While Rebecca was here, we all went to Olive Garden to celebrate Levi’s finalization. I went armed with all my things to help Sweet Pea if the restaurant atmosphere got to be too much for her: her car seat which acts as a cocoon to shut out the world around her, a big blanket to drape over the car seat to make it dark, her white noise lamb that attaches to the car seat to drown out noise, the miracle blanket and her paci to help her fall asleep which is what she needs if she gets overstimulated.

Olive Garden was the first place Sweet Pea had been to besides church and my parents’ house since probably Christmastime when I decided it wasn’t fair to her to take her places I knew would overstimulate her.

We arrived at the restaurant and Sweet Pea was in the car seat with just the car seat canopy over her (no blanket to fully shut everything out). She sat like that at first and she seemed totally fine so I decided I was going to get her out of her “cocoon” and see how she handled things.

I was watching her like a hawk for her overstimulation signs, but I never saw any and I can’t tell you how good it felt to be at a restaurant with my little family of four and for all four of us to be enjoying our time there!

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That’s when I knew we were nearing the end.

A few days later, Little Bug, Sweet Pea and I walked up to the neighborhood park. We have done this several times since Sweet Pea started staying awake longer, but I usually keep Sweet Pea in the stroller so she is shielded from the wind, which she does not like.

One this day, it wasn’t windy at all, so I decided that it was time for Sweet Pea to swing on the baby swing at the park for the first time!

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She LOVED it, but I pushed her limits a little too much because as I was swinging with Little Bug on the bigger swing, I saw “the look” on her face. I immediately stopped swinging with Little Bug and jumped off the swing to get Sweet Pea back in the stroller before it was too late.

Fortunately, I made it because I was watching for overstimulation signs, but that told me she isn’t quite completely over all this mess yet and I need to still be aware of how she is taking things in.

But, we are close. The simple fact that she could swing for a time at the neighborhood park makes my heart do flips!

I hope you hear my heart when I say this because I obviously wouldn’t want my life to be any different at all. However, I do find myself sometimes wondering what it would be like to have a “normal newborn” – a newborn NOT exposed to drugs in the womb, a newborn that wouldn’t have to go through withdrawals.

I have no idea what that would be like.

In the same thought, though, I find myself also thanking God that my girls are healthy, because I would rather deal with this than life-threatening diseases any day.

GI appointment

Sweet Pea had another follow up appointment with the GI on January 17th.

At almost 6 months old, Sweet Pea’s tummy issues are coming to an end!!!!

I think back to the newborn baby that writhed in pain after a feed and it is just so sad to think back on that time. Sweet Pea was so pathetic. I am SO relieved all that pain and discomfort are behind her.

This truly was a situation where time was needed to heal.

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The GI doctor told us at the first appointment that we would start to see significant improvement around 5-6 months and that has certainly been true.

I think for me, when Sweet Pea extended her feeds from 3 hours to 3.5 hours and then increased her feedings from 4 ounces to 5 ounces, I knew healing was on the horizon for her.

We do not have to go back to the GI for another follow up appointment unless there are any problems that arise.

She has been on 3mLs of Zantac (given three times a day) since the beginning of November and according to her weight her dosage could have increased by now, but since she is showing no signs of needing to increase her dosage, we will keep her dosage the same!

Sweet Pea was 14lbs 8oz on January 17th!

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At 7 months (once Sweet Pea has started solids and we see how her stomach handles that), we can start to wean her from zantac by given only 2mLs/day instead of 3mLs/day.

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Then if she handles that well, at 8 months we can try only 1mL/day. By 9 months, she could possibly be totally off zantac!

Of course, we will just see how she handles the weaning and go from there.

I am SO happy to see my baby at this place.

Does my heart a world of good!!

overnight

Overnight, it seems, Sweet Pea grew up!

She extended her wake time and dropped her 4th nap the week after turning 5 months old! This means she is now up while we are eating dinner and, for the first time, our whole family of four sits around the table for dinner every night!

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She sits in her seat talking away while we eat. Adorable! She is SO content and happy. I have never seen a baby as content with life as her. She sits wherever we put her and she watches her family around her. I guess we are pretty entertaining. Or I guess I should say…her big sister is pretty entertaining!

She has become a hoot in the bathtub!

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This particular night, she was kicking and splashing like CRAZY!

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She would kick so fast and furious and then stop and look at me to make sure I was watching her.

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I would say something to her and she would start smiling HUGE and start kicking all over again!

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It was awesome to see some personality coming out in this precious little baby!

Then…

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I got her out of the tub and she was her usual smiley self. I decided to get some cute naked shot of her (every baby has to have those, right?!).

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She started acting like she was going to ROLL OVER!

So I quickly switched the camera to video and I captured her first roll-over from stomach to back!!

(Sorry, not posting. I was a little too excited to post the video for the world to see. Smile)

About a week and a half after turning 5 months old, Sweet Pea dropped another feeding and increased her feeds to 5 ounces!

While the GI and pedi had both recommended that we not give her over 4 ounces per feed until she is 6 months, doing this now just seemed the right and natural next step for her. In other words, I didn’t “force” this on her – she did this on her own, so I went with it, knowing if she had issues with eating 5 ounces per feed I could always take her back to 4 ounces. But, because she was ready, she has done just fine with eating 5 ounces every 3.5 hours.

Now that she eats 5 ounces, we had to move her up to the BIG bottles that hold 8 ounces! The bottle is about as tall as she is!

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Both of my girls seem to be growing up so fast lately!

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It is SO encouraging to see this progress in Sweet Pea. Her body is healing. She is not completely there as she still has some overstimulation issues, but…these are all good signs to me that she is making progress and soon, all this will be behind her.

Praise the Lord!!

The Plan

Thank you to everyone who left a comment about the Prevacid! I no longer feel apprehension about Prevacid after reading your comments and talking to Dr. G!

Dr. G decided we would give Sweet Pea 1mL of Zantac three times a day and then reevaluate on Friday or Monday. If things aren’t under control by then with Zantac then we will put Sweet Pea on Prevacid and see if there is any difference.

I told him I felt good about this plan and … so far, so good on the new Zantac dosage!

We will see how the rest of the week goes.

Trying to Figure it Out

Sweet Pea’s Zantac dosage, that is.

Her GI doctor, Dr. G, told me that every 4-6 weeks Sweet Pea’s Zantac dosage will  need to be increased as she gains weight.

After Sweet Pea recovered from the missed dosage while on vacation (which took several days) she was back to “normal” for a little bit until she started having more frequent and intense spells towards the end of October.

I knew it was time to up her dose, so when I took Sweet Pea for her shots on November 1st, I asked the pediatrician about this.

Her pedi increased her dosage from 0.7mL twice a day to 0.7mL three times a day.

About a week later, Sweet Pea had still not shown improvement. Last Friday I said I was giving this new dose the weekend to start working and then I was calling Dr. G to see what he thought her dosage should be.

I love Sweet Pea’s GI doctor, the nurses and the entire staff. They are so helpful and promptly reply to messages.

I put in a call there and it wasn’t long and the nurse, K, called me back and left a message because I missed the call because my phone was on silent. After speaking to Dr. G he had decided that Sweet Pea needs to be on Prevacid (instead of Zantac). For some reason, my pedi was very much against putting Sweet Pea on this to begin with and would not write a script for it. (I can’t remember her reasoning now!)

I called K back because I wanted to discuss my concerns about Prevacid.

Meanwhile, yesterday Sweet Pea had a problem-free day … until I told the nurse Sweet Pea had shown much improvement that day and she said, “Well, lets not mess with things and just see how she continues to do!” I totally agreed with that, got off the phone with her and I am not kidding you when I say not an hour later Sweet Pea was having a spell.

Ugh!!!!

Then, she woke early this morning spitting up and in pain. I brought her to bed with me where she squirmed through the pain.

So…I’ve just put in another call to K because obviously things aren’t settled after being on this new dosage for a week.

Please pray for wisdom for me as I try to discern what is best for Sweet Pea at this time. I am not opposed to trying the Prevacid, if that is what Dr. G says we need to try. I trust him – he is a specialist after all!

If you are reading this and have any experience (good or bad!) with Prevacid please leave a comment with your experiences!!

I know Zantac is a totally safe drug to give an infant! Is Prevacid?? Or does it have several risks? What is the difference between Zantac and Prevacid?

Those are the questions I want K to answer for me today.

Top 10

Top 10 to surviving “Tummy Troubles” with Sweet Pea (in no particular order)!!

1. Little Tummy’s Gas Relief Drops – We give these with every feed. It does seem to give her some relief although she does not like the taste of the drops. I have discovered the off brands are way cheaper than the Little Tummy’s brand.

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2. Mommy’s Bliss Gripe Water – She can have this 6 times a day. Now that she is eating 7 times a day, she has Gripe Water in every bottle except one. I usually leave it out of the 5pm bottle. We accidentally left it out of her bottles for over a day and it made a HUGE difference. This stuff works for Sweet Pea! I use the Mommy’s Bliss brand because it is more natural.

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3. Zantac – We started giving Sweet Pea the Zantac at the beginning of September. We think it helps and since this medicine is so benign, we plan to keep her on it until she is not showing any symptoms anymore.

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4. Miracle Blanket & Gumdrop Newborn Paci – I think if you’ve been reading for long, you know full well the Miracle Blanket would be on my list no matter what the circumstances. The best swaddle blanket out there is the Miracle Blanket because it keeps those little arms and hands in the swaddle so they can’t escape and startle her awake. The Miracle Blanket definitely keeps Sweet Pea feeling secure.

Another item that would be on my list no matter the circumstances is this pacifier. The Gumdrop brand is the “mommy’s preferred” brand compared to the “Soothies”. Since both my girls spent their first week in the NICU and the Soothie paci is what they use there, they both just stuck with this paci after leaving the hospital. My pedi says that this type of paci is perfect because it is hard to suck on so once they fall asleep it easily falls out of their mouths. Sucking does bring Sweet Pea relief when she is in a spell.

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5. LOTS of bibs, burp clothes and receiving blankets – I laugh at this because with Little Bug I only did her laundry once a week, like I do ours. But with Sweet Pea, she has a load of laundry herself at least every other day from all the spit up burp clothes, bibs and blankets! I have two baskets stashed with these things for easy access in the house – one in the living room and one in our bedroom.

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6. Homedics® SoundSpa Sound Machine – This would be on any list as well. I didn’t have this sound machine with Little Bug. I had a CD that played white noise sounds, which was great. Only thing was, I had to have a boom box to play the CD. This sound machine is AWESOME and SO incredibly portable. It can run off batteries or it can be plugged in. It is so small I can toss it in the diaper bag to go. It has 6 sounds and like her sister, Sweet Pea likes the rain sound.

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7. Sling – I have several but this one has proven to be a lifesaver if Sweet Pea is in pain and needs to be held upright and I need my hands free to take care of Little Bug. A friend made this for me when Little Bug was born but Little Bug just wasn’t a sling baby. I was about to purchase a Moby Wrap when I remembered I had this sling. Saved some big bucks. This sling is awesome! I have another sling that a friend let me borrow. That one is good if Sweet Pea is awake, pain-free and just wants to be held.

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8. Fisher Price Newborn Rock and Play – Sweet Pea naps in this and sleeps at night in this. After trying to prop the cradle up with blankets and a sleep positioner to no avail, a friend told me I could borrow this because her baby (born a month before Sweet Pea) does not use it. This has been a lifesaver.

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9. Premixed Similac Allimentum – We heard that sometimes the premixed formula helps babies with sensitive stomachs. When we took Sweet Pea off the Neocate formula, we put her on premixed Similac Allimentum and it does seem to help her. A friend of mine found me an awesome deal on Craigslist this week. A woman was selling her overstock at just $5 a container! (Regular price in the stores is about $10.) She had 36 containers!! Each container lasts about 2 days so that is about 74 days of formula at half-price! HUGE blessing. And a huge blessing to not have to run to the store every week for formula for quite a while!

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10. Grandma! – What would I have done without my mom during those first few weeks…and even now? I am glad I don’t have to answer that question. Her help with both Little Bug and Sweet Pea has been invaluable. Also here should be a picture of ALL my family and friends, near and far away, who have supported and helped us in some way throughout this time. If you are reading this and have prayed for us, YOUR picture should be here! Thank you to EVERYONE and thank you MAMA!

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GI Appointment

Yesterday was Sweet Pea’s GI appointment.

While there was no breakthrough discovery that is going to magically make Sweet Pea’s pain disappear overnight (I know…that wasn’t likely to happen, but one can always hope and hope I did), the appointment was very reassuring.

Dr. G wrote in the summary he sent me home with that he suspects the discomfort is more related to the maturation of the nervous system than to a digestive issue or a structural defect of the gut.

This is reassuring to me because it 1) affirms that we are dealing with an immature nervous/digestive system due to drug exposure in the womb and 2) we’ve just got to keep pressing on because eventually Sweet Pea will outgrow all of these tummy issues as her body heals and grows.

Dr. G did say that he wants her to have the upper GI x-ray and sonogram. Even though he is pretty certain this is from the drug exposure the tests are worth doing to be 100% certain there is nothing physically wrong with her digestive system. He said the radiation she will receive from the x-ray will be no more than what she would receive in getting in an airplane and flying to Chicago, so the tests are worth doing. The office will be calling me to schedule soon.

The other thing that was very reassuring was that he validated my opinion that Sweet Pea should be on the Zantac, even though she is not really dealing with “reflux”. He said Sweet Pea is definietely showing reflux symptoms and he said that Zantac has a safety profile that suggests that it deserves to be used as a precautionary measure from possible acid coming up and causing harm to the esophegus tissue. Dr. G said that weaning from the Zantac can begin when she becomes asymptomatic and that the dose will need to be increased as she gains weight.

My pediatrician was wanting to wean Sweet Pea from the Zantac after just a months use, which I did not feel good about at all. In fact, this is one reason I felt the need to take Sweet Pea to a GI specialist so that I could hopefully have him validate my gut instinct that Sweet Pea needs to be on Zantac until her symptoms go away. This was accomplished today!

I told Dr G about the incident when we ran out of Gripe Water on accident and Sweet Pea was without it for over a day and then when we gave her some once we realized she instantly calmed down. He said that gripe water is usually very calming/soothing for the pain and that we should continue the use of Gripe Water.

No magical cure, but today, finally, I feel I have done all I can do to physically help my baby and now it is time that is our biggest factor.

With time, Sweet Pea will gzet over all this. Dr. G obviously could not say exactly when Sweet Pea will be “all better” but he did say that he suspects to see improvements by around 4ish months, possibly 5.

We just need to keep doing what we are doing to bring her the most comfort possible during her spells. She has not had another horrible day like she had last Monday and Tuesday when she was not on the Gripe Water, so that is encouraging.

Oh how I wish Dr. G could have prescribed her a medicine to just make it all go away, but he did not because that is not what is going to bring relief to my Sweet Pea.

What Sweet Pea needs is time to heal. 

And prayers. Lots of prayers for healing.

Please join me in praying daily that God will put His healing touch on Sweet Pea’s little body and rid her of these awful drugs and make her digestive system whole and new.

Q&A: withdrawals, sling, friends, birth story

Sweet Pea is looking much happier in the photos lately – is she showing a lot of reduced signs of withdrawal/pain?

We have certainly learned how to manage her pain. When her tummy pain is at its worst, she likes to be swaddled and held upright on my chest. I pat her back and give her the paci, if she wants it. I hold her very tight against my body and that position helps eventually bring her relief, except on horrible days. On horrible days she just continues to squirm and be restless all day long.

I realized something pretty amazing the other day. Sweet Pea rarely cries. Even on her really bad days, she rarely cries. She would certainly cry if I left her just siting on her own somewhere, but obviously, I don’t do that because holding her tight against me brings her comfort. She wriggles and squirms in discomfort, but it is amazing to me that she rarely cries, even when her pain is at its worst. I attribute this to having her on a schedule. Sweet Pea has order and stability in her life, even through all the craziness of her tummy troubles, and I am confident that has made a world of difference for her when her tummy is hurting her.

And yes, she does look so much better than she did after coming home from the hospital. She does not have the furrowed brow anymore and she smiles every day. However, she still does deal with tummy troubles on a daily basis and will, most likely, for a while still until her body has had time to grow, mature and heal from the drug exposure.

We have an appointment with the GI specialist this week. My pedi didn’t feel like it was essential that I take Sweet Pea but I can’t not go. I don’t know if there is anything groundbreaking that he will be able to do for Sweet Pea, but I have the opportunity to take her to the specialist and I am not going to pass it up. Maybe there is something he knows that my pedi just isn’t aware of because she isn’t a GI specialist. He is a specialist for a reason! Once again, I have to know I’ve done everything in my power to help bring Sweet Pea comfort through all this.

I love that sling! How easy is it to put on and use? How did you get the sling to work? Have you tried other baby carriers?

The ring sling is fairly easy to put on and use. Once you do it a few times, you just get the hang of it.

I put the sling on over my head first. Then I make sure the rings are at my shoulders. Then I make a little “cocoon pocket” for Sweet Pea to slip into by making sure some fabric is against my stomach (on the inside).

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Then I pick Sweet Pea up, lay her on my chest in the position I want her to be in while in the sling. Then I slip her into the sling.

Once she is in, I pull on the fabric coming out of the ring to tighten her against my body.

I really do love this sling. It is perfect for holding Sweet Pea in her “comfort position” when I need to be hands-free to take care of Little Bug.

Since I have never tried to put a baby in a ring sling with their feet/legs hanging out, I really can’t answer that question!

I have one other sling that I used with Little Bug once she was a little older and had more head control. It is an Infantino carrier.

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I really did not use a sling much with Little Bug because she just wasn’t a sling baby. I do remember using this carrier several times at the sink when I was trying to clean the kitchen/wash bottles and Little Bug was wanting to be held. She enjoyed watching me wash dishes from her view in the carrier.

Those are the only slings/carriers I have experience with.

 

How do you meet other mom friends? I am a SAHM and it’s so hard to find other moms to meet up with!

I have lived in this city since I was under 2 years old, so I have many local friends, even from elementary school! God has blessed me with an abundance of close friends that I have known since elementary/high school. Friends that are forever friends and aren’t going anywhere even if they were to move cross-country. We will always be friends.

Church! We are a part of a small group at church, made of several couples in our same age group who are in the same stage of life as we are.

If you are a church-goer and your church offers small groups where you can connect with other members of the church, I strongly urge you to find a group you can connect with and start going to a small group! It took a while for us to find a group that we connected with, but it was worth every bit of effort it took to finally find this group of people who are now like family to us.

Neighborhood! Don’t be afraid to talk to your neighbors! This day and age is so strange when it comes to neighbors! For 3 years, I lived right next door to a woman I consider a good friend now. When we lived next door to each other, we did the usual neighborly “Hi, how are you?” and that was basically it. They moved and we became friends on Facebook and talked more through Facebook than we ever did in person when we lived right next door to each other! She is expecting now and oh how I wish we still were neighbors and could go on walks together with our babies in their Britax B-Ready strollers! (She is the one who told me about the stroller!)

So my point is…if you see a SAHM always out in the neighborhood, go up and make friends! The neighbor to our left is a SAHM with her two young children. Little Bug LOVES the little girl who lives there. If she is out playing, Little Bug wants to go play with her. We often let our kids play together while we talk and enjoy some adult interaction!

 

What exactly is her birth story?

I was not present for Sweet Pea’s birth because of certain circumstances I can’t go into now.

The way I understand it, Sweet Pea was born at 7:55am via c-section and her birth mother saw her for about five minutes. Because of the rH factor, Sweet Pea was whisked away soon after her birth so the aggressive treatment for this condition could begin immediately.

Sweet Pea was born at one hospital and then was transferred to another hospital about four hours after her birth.

Once at the second hospital she was treated for the rH factor with triple phototherapy lights and a blood transfusion a few days after her birth.

We met Sweet Pea on August 4th – two days after her birth. She was about 1.5 hours away from our home town. When the lawyer text me saying the TPR had been signed, we jumped in the car to go meet our baby girl.

While I was not there for Sweet Pea’s birth, I was given an equally amazing gift: The very first time I ever laid eyes on Sweet Pea, she was completely mine.

It’s a moment I will never forget – just like those precious moments after Little Bug’s birth as I stood right there in the delivery room as she made her grade entrance into this world.