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.