Wednesday, March 16, 2011

how Kieran Michael changed my life (a very long blog entry!)

It's only Wednesday and this week's already been crazy! We sold our couch, bought two new ones and have been preparing for the kids' birthday party this weekend - we have TWO birthdays to celebrate this week! Miss Maia will be 3 years old on Friday, and Mr. Kieran is 1 tomorrow - ONE! Can you believe it? Wasn't he born just yesterday? My little St. Patty's Day baby, born 10 weeks too soon, is going to be one year old and it just floors me. While I am away from the kids at work, on my lunch break, I feel a compelling, emotional need to blog because it's a very bittersweet week for me. As with any child's birthday there are a lot of sweet emotions as you realize how quickly life has passed you by, how many milestones they've met, how many joyous experiences you've had with them. Maia has made leaps and bounds from 2 to 3 and it's been really wild to see her grow up this past year as she became a big sister. And Kieran, well....something about his birthday is just extra emotional, and extra special. I'm sure you can understand why that might be.

I've spent nearly every day since Saturday thinking about where I was a year ago. A year ago last Saturday I was leaving the hospital after a diagnosis of pre-eclampsia & a weekend of monitoring to head home on bedrest. My bedrest lasted 2.5 days before I found myself in excruciating abdominal pain, unable to breathe - I later learned that was my liver crying out for help. I went to the hospital hoping for a quick visit but they admitted me and gave me the news that with both a pre-eclampsia & HELLP syndrome diagnosis, I would have to deliver my baby boy far in advance of his May 28th due date. There was a calm in me when we started the induction, though. Partly because I knew a few days in advance that he might have to come early, so I was prepared, and partly because I just KNEW things were going to be okay - I sensed it. I remember the induction went swiftly and smoothly - something I never would have thought possible at 29.5 weeks along, and I remember taking a bath to relax & going "inside myself" to talk to my little boy. I closed my eyes and tried to connect to him, and I told him that I was so sorry that I was sick, and so sorry he had to come out early, but that mommy and daddy loved him so much and would take good care of him, that he would be safe and loved and everything would be okay. And everything WAS okay. Besides the induction, the birth was gentle on he & I and got to touch him and kiss him before he went to the NICU - something that's not very common with preemies from what I hear. I started pumping milk for him as soon as I had rested and got to do kangaroo care with him against my chest later that day. And I remember thinking how crazy it was, that of all days for him to be born he was born on St. Patrick's Day, like he was my little good luck charm forever. People asked me if we named him Kieran (an Irish name) because of the birthday, but no, he was going to be Kieran Michael even if he was born in May. And the reddish blond hair he has now has turned into a bright red color - very fitting for a little Irishman! It was all so crazy, all of it, like it was meant to be...

One year later it doesn't even feel like I was ever sick. I had pre-eclampsia with my first pregnancy (Maia was actually due April 5th!) and pre-e and HELLP with Kieran but you would never know, looking at all of us now, that we were ever affected by the disease. But if there was one good thing to come out of having my son 10 weeks early (and there are more than one, but this is the best) it's that his birth was my wake-up call. Not just a "life is sacred" sort of wake up call - because, well, it is, but that's not the only thing I learned. After I got home from the hospital and during Kieran's NICU stay I started researching pre-eclampsia & HELLP syndrome, wondering why I had it, what I could have done to prevent it. Sure, it was after the fact but it helped me process a lot of feelings. And in my research I discovered that I was completely, 100% unhealthy in my diet and lifestyle, and while pregnant with both children, my body acted out. I never ate well, never had a balanced diet, ate whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. I didn't drink enough water & had too much caffeine. I ate candy, donuts, pizza, Chinese, lots of fruits but minimal veggies, and other high-fat, high-cholesterol foods. I definitely did not have enough protein - especially while pregnant with Kieran and still nursing Maia. I never exercised. I should have been in the best shape of my life, and taken care of myself better than I ever had before, but did I? No, and I am ashamed to say that. I am ashamed to admit that I never had a balanced diet until I was 25 years old. That I never knew how big an impact nutrition makes on your day-to-day existence until I was shaken to my core by a huge health scare. And it's sad that it took risking my son's health, my son's life, to get that through my head, but there's nothing I can do about that now...except spread the word. I have changed my diet completely, and I am still working on that now. I used to have high cholesterol and recently I discovered that it is only 1 point above normal, which is excellent for a breastfeeding mom! I am always making sure to intake protein and balance my carbs & sugars. I rarely eat packaged food anymore, and now when I eat something sugary or fatty, I feel it RIGHT away. I still can't believe that I never gave any thought to my diet before, but it's never too late to change your diet and change your life! Now I'm on the quest to find a fun physical activity to keep my heart healthy and my body moving, because recently there have been studies like this one that say that if you've had pre-eclampsia show up in pregnancies that you're at higher risk for heart disease (and even Maia is at greater risk for pre-e and heart disease simply because I was, ugh!) That is SO scary to me!

Kieran's birth sparked something in me besides a new respect for my body, my health, and a renewed sense of life. His birth opened my eyes to what premature babies and moms go through with the NICU journey and breastfeeding struggles, and gave me insight into birth/NICU trauma as experienced by mothers. His birth ignited a passion in me to help support other moms on their own NICU journeys and transition to life at home, and to help preemie moms be able to breastfeed. As a result of everything I went through, I now know where my passions lie, and I will be training this spring to be a Certified Lactation Counselor and a Postpartum Doula, specializing in preemies of course.

They say everything happens for a reason - I think Kieran's premature birth happened for a million reasons. He changed me in every possible way and for that I am so extremely thankful. And I thank God for keeping him safe and healthy throughout the NICU journey, and his whole first year at home. He is a blessing to me and our family, and all those who meet him. He is a beautiful ball of sunshine and love. I cannot imagine my life without him. He really is my lucky charm. Happy birthday tomorrow, my sweet little Button...I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always, as long as I'm living my baby you'll be.

From this...2 lbs, 10 oz, 15 inches long...

to this...24 lbs & 30 inches...!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

parenthood rite of passage: first late night hospital trip

Last night I experienced my first late night children's hospital visit with Kieran in tow. He had a runny nose all day Wednesday but no other signs of illness - happy, content and his usual self. He went down for bed just fine and then as I was getting ready for bed at midnight I heard him cough - I hadn't heard him cough all day so that was weird and that I'd keep listening. When I laid down I heard him cough again and this time called Josh and we agreed I'd take him to the hospital. I KNEW it was croup right away. That seal-like bark is unlike anything you ever hear in the normal cough/cold spectrum, and I knew that croup could come on suddenly, typically at night. So I asked Josh to help me get him ready to go to the hospital while I got myself ready, and while he was putting on his sweatshirt Kieran was crying, coughing and he started turning purple! Let me tell you, I had a flashback to when he was going through his apnea spells in the NICU and it was NOT fun.

Josh stayed home with sleeping Maia, so I took Kieran in the car alone and I was so scared. I turned off the heat so he could have cold air, which is supposed to help with croup, but it also served as helpful so that I could hear his heavy breathing. I hated that I had to drive alone in the dark after he had turned purple, and I hated even more when I had to get on the highway and couldn't hear his breathing anymore because the car got louder. But we arrived to the hospital and he had fallen asleep. I woke the little guy up and we sat in the ER for about 45 minutes before we were seen. Already I noticed he sounded better, so I think the cool air in the car helped him, but he still had a very barky cough. The intake nurse said "I knew he was croupy the minute he walked in" - he definitely gave it away! We were put into a room in the short stay unit and a doctor came in very quickly after that. Kieran was to get a nebulizer breathing treatment and then an oral steroid. If he responded well to the medicine we would be able to go home after an hour or so. If he got worse, we'd have to stay. I snapped a picture of him with my phone in his purple backless hospital gown after he had the meds (and a late night nursing session.) When Josh saw this picture he thought it was one of baby Maia - maybe the purple threw him off? ;)

After about an hour and a half they sent us home. Kieran's cough sounded better, he was breathing easier and was sleeping peacefully. His lungs were clear and he had no fever so I felt we were fine to go home. They didn't send any meds home, as the oral steroid is supposed to be long-lasting, so at 4AM we got tucked into bed. Sleep didn't last long for either of us, though, as Maia woke up at 7, yeesh!

Today's Kieran been doing really well, which sort of surprises me (but of course thrills me!) He had his monthly RSV shot this morning and the nurse who came to our house thought Kieran's lungs sounded great and he really hasn't had much of a cough today, though when he has it's been slightly mucousy and not croupy. And despite his sickness of the past few days, he's learned to wave goodbye and I think he may have signed "all done" earlier today. He is such a little trooper and I am totally counting my blessings because this is the first time K's ever been sick, and I'm thankful for how mild it's been thus far. Special thanks go out to my grandma today, who took Maia out to the bookstore and to her house for dinner so Kieran and I could get a nap - you are an angel, Grandma!!!

Monday, February 21, 2011

family update

Wow, it's been awhile! Time passes by SO very quickly in my world, as it usually does with parents of two little ones, but still I am so amazed at how fast time really is flying by. I got busy with schoolwork (I'm taking one college class this trimester) and all the sudden I haven't posted since January 6th! Oh well. It's my blog, I do what I want ;) I have many things I want to post about, but since January so many things have happened in our family so I thought I would blog about those first.

Brittany: Besides my class (and may I say, taking one class versus two a trimester REALLY helps with my personal/family balance!) I also took an embroidery class at Crafty Planet last month and it was so much fun. I'm now almost done with my first project, a tea towel with a really awesome design - you'll see soon when I post pictures. I've kept up on my sewing, too. My goal was 2 projects a month and in January I sewed Kieran a pair of pants and sewed a burp cloth & bib for my friend's new baby boy. So far for February I have made an adorable skirt for Maia with Hello Kitty fabric that she picked out, and next up are some curtains for our side door. I love having crafts to turn to when I need a break, and being able to embroider things now is great because it's portable, plus I can do it with the kids around.

Kieran modeling his fleece mama-made pants



Speaking of my friend's new baby boy, I was blessed to be able to attend that little fella's birth - a beautiful, gentle home waterbirth. It's such a blessing to be able to witness birth as it's truly supposed to be. Lastly, I joined BeautiControl (again, as I used to be a consultant) because I am absolutely in love with their mineral makeup and brand new skin care (it's paraben-free, gluten-free and without artificial fragrances & dyes!) and I'm hoping to do 2-3 in-home spa parties a month for extra cash. If you see this and you're interested in having a party or checking out the spa goodies (seriously, their skin care & makeup is to die for!) let me know!

Josh: Josh has been busy playing guitar in a new band called Mainland. He's also going to be having another surgery in April on his injured foot (this makes #5 since I've known him, I think?) Speaking of his foot (which, if you didn't know, he injured in a work accident in 11/2005, breaking I-don't-know-how-many-bones in a fall) my friend suggested that Josh look into using an amber bracelet around his ankle to help with swelling and inflammation, and guess what? It's totally working! Yep, amber rocks. He's been wearing it about 3-4 weeks now and has noticed that while there is still foot pain, his swelling has decreased to barely anything, which means less pain. Yay! Now that everyone in my family has one, I want one, too....hmm.

Maia: Maia has grown a TON lately. She's super tall and in 4T clothes now. She started a tumbling class at the rec center down the street and she likes that a lot, especially the "animal crawls" she learned and somersaults - she's so good at them! We recently signed her up for preschool - yes, my baby girl is going to PRESCHOOL this September! We hope to visit the school soon as a family. I've been there before, as my 2 youngest brothers attended there, but Josh has never been. Maia's been going through some developmental growth as well. Recently she started to do many new things herself, things that we previously did for her like getting toothpaste out and on her brush, helping her get dressed, etc. She can now fully get dressed and undressed except for buttons and she needs help getting her shirts off. She does her full night-time routine on her own in the bathroom alone (her preference) with us just guiding and reminding her what to do. I am so proud of her!

She loves finger painting.


She has also been engaging in pretend play and using her imagination for some time now but it's really expanded lately and it's fun to see what she comes up with! She's been playing doctor since this summer but recently has expanded her repertoire to include ambulance rides, shopping at Target for band-aids for the office, and even a hospital bed set-up in her room. There's also been pretend beach party picnics, car rides to her cousin's homes & pretend talent shows (she always dances.) Her baby/mom role-playing is also expanding and she takes her baby in her doll carrier and/or carseat on car rides, grocery shopping, to the doctor, etc. It is so much fun to see what she comes up with! Her language has also furthered a ton, too. She is constantly making us laugh with her hilarious stories and funny sayings. And one of the cutest things she is into lately is back rubs and back scratches. She now wants them before she goes to bed, so she gets one of each :)


Kieran: This little dude has gone through a TON since the last time I posted about him! A few weeks ago he weighed in at 23 lbs & 29 inches. Yes, 23 lbs!!!!! That means that he is bigger than Maia was at this age, because Maia was 22lbs from 6 months to about 2 years. That's just insane to me. He is now 11 months old and just about 9 months adjusted - we're so close to 1 year old, what the heck!? In January he got his first teeth - the front two bottom, and in February he got his top front two teeth with nary a side effect. Seriously, the amber teething necklace rocks!!! He looks so stinking cute with the two front teeth, and looking more grown up. He's mostly wearing 24 month now, save for 18 month bottoms. He is a hefty boy but oh well, it's worth it :) We worked hard for those rolls!



Also - he is CRAWLING! He started officially crawling on Valentine's Day - he crawled from one room to me in the next room. Then the next day I found him standing next to his toy box - he learned to pull up in the same week! He thinks it's really funny to pull things off our coffee table and just learned how to pull up in his crib last night. What a silly boy. The funny thing is, Kieran's started crawling the exact same"age" as Maia! Maia crawled at 8.5 months and Kieran crawled at 8.5 months adjusted. Pretty cool, huh? I think my kids just crawl a tad it later because they are so dang chubby, ha! Kieran's also vocalizing more - I hear "mama" occasionally, as well as "dada," and we hear gee, kee, yeah, etc. He seems to be spot on with his adjusted age for that. And he's signing "more" now! We use "more" a lot when it comes to his food - he is a very voracious eater, especially when it comes to meat & cheese, so we're constantly giving him more and more and more! Favorite foods right now are: any kind of meat, steamed broccoli and blueberries (but I am NOT giving him those again for awhile, the diapers are HORRID!) He is such a fantastic eater and we've loved letting him lead the way using the baby-led weaning method.


Whew, did you stick around for all that? It was a lot of writing (at least there were photos!) But now you know what the Collins crew has been up to. I am trying to make blogging a priority but it's a work in progress. :)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

breastfeeding & Facebook

Recently, a fan page that I "like" on Facebook has been through some controversy. The Leaky B@@b is a support page for breastfeeding moms to ask questions, swap stories and commiserate over issues. The other day, Facebook deleted the page because it apparently violated the Terms of Service. Then FB reinstated it. Then they deleted it again. It's been reinstated now for a few days and hopefully is here to stay. You can read all about the drama here on the New York Times blog "The Motherlode." Some say the issue is the fact that moms are posting breastfeeding pictures, which some deem offensive; other people believe Facebook has got something against breastfeeding. Who really knows?

Drama aside, I want to personally comment on behalf of online breastfeeding support groups like The Leaky B@@b. This generation of nursing moms are tuned in to social media like no generation before them. While groups like La Leche League are fantastic, not every new mom has the opportunity to attend a meeting - maybe they're too far away, or they have a few kids at home and can't make the time. While lactation consultants can be hired and consulted in person and over the phone, not every mom can afford one. Connecting to other nursing moms online is, in some cases, the only exposure to breastfeeding support that some women have. Many moms do not have the support of their family and friends when they take on a challenge like breastfeeding, and it's just not easy to go at it alone. And it's not all about solving problems - women need to have a place where they can go to feel supported, inspired, and to have their accomplishments lauded as well. Case in point - ME! Remember when I gave birth to a very tiny, very premature little dude (who, thanks to the power of breastmilk, is not so little anymore!) I knew ZERO preemie moms in real life, and when faced with bedrest and then a long NICU stay, the internet was my friend - I went to an online community (LiveJournal's breastfeeding support community, to be exact) to seek out other preemie moms because I had no idea what I was getting into with pumping, trying to get the teeniest mouth to latch on - it was hard work! As a result, I "met" other preemie moms online, read success stories, got pumping tips and saw pictures of moms nursing their tiny preemies. One particular story stuck with me - a mom had HELLP syndrome, just like me, and had her son 10 weeks early, just like me - but her son successfully breastfed! If she could do it, then I could do, too, I declared. Eventually I was posting my own success story to the site, surrounded by women who patted me on the back virtually. As an isolated NICU mom pumping (and later, nursing) around the clock, knowing other women were proud of me and excited for me - and my son, who was thriving - was so critical to our success as a nursing mother and son.

So whether it was about nursing photos (which are probably the least obscene pictures involving breasts, EVER) or about Facebook's supposed vendetta against nursing moms, all I know is that virtual, online places that support nursing women are necessary to the success of many nursing mamas, myself included. Women need to SEE breastfeeding, if not in their real lives, at least online. As for Facebook, I think it's HIGH time for some new rules about breaches of Terms of Service - automatic deletions are not acceptable any longer! I am thankful that my nursing photos have never been flagged but I have had friends who have had photos deleted without warning because of Facebook's silly policy of automatic deletion due to "obscenity." Hopefully this will all be resolved soon!

Monday, January 3, 2011

2011, really?

I cannot believe it's already 2011! It seems like last year flew by more than I can recall any other year doing. With Kieran in the NICU 2.5 months and then a blurry few months after his homecoming, I pretty much lost out on spring and summer went by in the blink of an eye. Ah well, such is life with two little ones.

Looking back to last January, I remember this week in 2010 being so exciting as Josh and I were about to find out the sex of our second baby. I thought I would be completely content with a boy or girl. Since I don't have a sister I would have loved to see that dynamic, especially with the two close in age, but I also knew that Josh and his sister, two years apart, have always been close and hoped that could be the case as well. Well you all know how the ultrasound turned out ;) We have a lovely little man in our midst and we just couldn't be happier. He fits into our family so perfectly, and the bond that Kieran and Maia share is so very evident to all who see them together. Today we got home from dinner out and Josh opened up the back car doors to see them staring at each other, each with enormous grins on their faces. You could literally feel the love - aww! I just found this picture of them in my Photobucket from sweet, aren't they?


Speaking of Kieran a bit more, he is an absolute blast right now! He's made a ton of physical advances in the past few weeks. He's rolling around to get places, so we try to leave him a large space to move about, and last week I discovered him starting to pull up on things! After a few weeks of encouragement, he is now clapping, and he's been 'dancing' for awhile, too! When a song comes on that he likes, he can be seen bopping along, moving his body ever so slightly to the beat. It's so cute!


He's still signing milk, and hasn't added any new signs to his repertoire, though we are working on "more", "all done", "eat" for solids and "drink" for sippy cup time. He's more verbal as of late, too - we've heard him say "dadadadada" and variations of "hey" and "hee" are favorites as well. Maia will get right in his face when he chats and babytalks to him to encourage him to talk, saying things like, "Kee-win, say mama! Say mama!" Such a little mother hen she is!

Lastly, I always say I'm going to talk about Kieran's food journey/babyled weaning, and I never do (but I still will!) so for now, here are some fun food pictures of him eating a brussel sprout. Last week he tried brussel sprouts, walleye, salmon and chicken - and he loved them all! I'm constantly wowed by how much he can do without teeth - he is such a fantastic eater yet he still has zero teeth!


Note the demolished sprout..."What do I do now, mom?"