Sunday, February 27, 2011


I continue to read, read and read about preemies. If you look in my Google search history, you'll see things like "preemie long-term effects" and "preemie growth." I am in awe of the power of the human body. The body has miraculous ways of fixing itself - just as a person who experiences a heart attack can go on and enjoy life, a preemie can grow and thrive with organs that strengthen themselves. Jeremy and I are doing some serious attachment parenting - besides me nursing Jossie, we "wear" her in a baby wrap and she sleeps in a bassinet close to our bed. I feed on demand...even if demand means stopping roadside yesterday afternoon. (Oh, yes, I did nurse in the car.) This is all happening as we're also parenting Jack - doing things like the pee-pee Olympics where Jack practices his aim at Cheerios in the potty.

Did we mention we're exhausted?

Jossie will be 39 weeks gestational age tomorrow. She really is acting more and more like a newborn - more alert and really crying. The crying is joy, joy, joy to our ears - we love that her lungs are strong and growing, and she has the mental capabilities to tell us when something's wrong or we're utterly annoying her. I just love hearing those beautiful cries.

Jossie already has a collection of darling clothes - I cannot wait for spring and summer to doll her up next to her handsome big brother. And, yes, I can't believe I did this, but I bought Joss her first pair of white tights. Just a few weeks old, and I'm already planning to squeeze those baby thighs into tights. We gotta look good for the spring holidays, sweethearts!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Where I'm at

Oops. I can't write a post like my last one and then going MIA from the blogosphere for a few days. I've had my nearest and dearest calling and sending emails to check in - thank you for that.

Honestly, writing my last post has made me feel better - to put my feelings to written word. I'm moving forward. This week has been busy, caring for two small kids at home. Life's been mostly very normal - teaching Jack how to play train with a line of empty chairs and nursing Jossie nonstop (seriously, I feel like a human pacifier). And it's been a bit not normal. Jeremy and I are looking at two preschools for Jack this week. It's a bit surreal still realizing I'm a parent, let alone a parent who has a child old enough for school.

And, yes, I'm not completely healed yet.  I dwell on Jossie being a preemie. We were in the elevator of our condo building the other day and a man leaned over and smiled at my baby girl. "She's a few weeks old?" he asked. "Yes," I replied, "but she's a preemie. That's why she is so small." When someone asked me if I was going to do a parent-infant class with Jossie in the fall, I said, "Of course not. She's a preemie." At the grocery store today, I almost asked the grocery bagger to stop touching my groceries because she was obviously sick and I have a preemie at home.

I even bought a baby scale so I can keep tabs on her weight. 5 lb 10 oz, in case you are wondering.

So I'm getting there - just taking my time. Getting ready to pass by March 7 - Jossie's due date - and just move on and grow this little girl as much as I can.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Rays of sunshine

I was sad this morning.

I know Jossie being born preterm is not my fault. It is not my fault. I admit - I have entertained thoughts to the contrary in the past weeks but I've been pretty successful in squelching them in recent days.

I do, however, get the baby blues sometimes, and if I can't write about them here, where can I? I was sad this morning. My due date of March 7 is coming up soon, and I'm sad that Jossie didn't get those last seven weeks in me to grow and develop. I'm selfishly sad that I  missed a good deal of my third trimester of what will probably be my last pregnancy - of being full of life. And I'm sad I had to have an emergency c-section and feel so out-of-control of Jossie's birth, when I felt so in control of Jack's birth.

It's hard to deal with these feelings. Jeremy continues to comfort me with the fact that we have a healthy daughter who is full of spunk.  When we were in the NICU, I was constantly amazed at the resiliency of the human spirit, exhibited by the little ones. All these little babies want to do is live and thrive - these four-pound and smaller babes in their itty-bitty diapers. If this isn't motivating, I'm not sure what is.

I'm not ready to completely let go of my sadness just yet but I'm thankful to God for reminding me of the good that surrounds me. Today, the sunshine shone brightly and people in Chicago were shedding winter layers to soak in the warmth. This afternoon, as the sunshine streamed through our windows, Jack and I set out the playmat for Jossie, and we had her first-ever tummy time. It went over...quietly. She promptly fell asleep, our sweet girl.

In the late afternoon, Jack half-woke up from his nap and climbed into my bed and promptly fell back to sleep (which, trust me, never happens). I had Jossie cradled in the crook of my arm, Jack snuggled up against my back and Roscoe the cat snoozing against Jack's legs. Surrounded by my babies, listening to their breathing - well, there is nothing sweeter or life-affirming than that.

I'm sad now from time to time. But I will heal. For my family, I will heal. And because of my family, I will heal.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Talk to me!

I feel a little alone here in cyber-world. Post some comments, please! To post a comment:

1. Click on "comments" at the end of the post
2. If you don't have a Google account, you can easily comment by choosing "Name/URL" under the drop-down menu
3. Enter any name you want; no URL is required
4. Type your comment and then click on "post comment"

To quote Jack, who's quoting Maria, that was "easy-peasy lemon-squeezy."

Fresh air

Today's predicted high is around 60 degrees. The pediatrician gave us the blessing to take Jossie outside - in fact she said she preferred us to take her outside than being in a crowded indoor area. So, Jossie and I bundled up and out we went to soak up some "fresh" city air. Jeremy and I live in a pretty industrial area of Chicago and with all of the snow melting and the streets dirty, she got a pretty gritty view of her neighborhood. She slept soundly like a good city baby as trucks and buses rumbled past.

We've had but a handful of visitors since Jossie has been home, and that's my doing. I've been super-careful about germs - someone else's common cold could be a serious thing for Jossie, which could land us back in the hospital. But you know me - I love to talk and I really miss people. Any time someone on the street would make eye contact, you bet they got a chipper "good morning!" from me (followed by a look of "don't even think of touching my baby").

Today is sweet Jossie's one-month birthday! At her pediatrician visit yesterday, she weighed in at 5 lbs 2 oz. The greatest gainer!  Preemies can take awhile to catch up their peers - the average is two years. We'll see how our champ does - I'm saying six months, and she's rolling her eyes at me for pressuring her already. 

Jack is going back and forth if he likes his new big-brother status. He likes to talk about what babies cannot do, and what big boys can do. He likes to talk about what Jossie will do when she's bigger. He even indulged me the other night by allowing me to show him his baby pictures so we could see how small he once was. We still have our moments, however. Jossie's been receiving a lot of nice gifts, and one afternoon - after not napping - he threw one present, which escalated into a lot of his crying and my harsh tones. When Jeremy came home, Jack was still upset and sat on Jeremy's lap. I told Jer what happened and then Jack's eyes welled up with tears again and he bubbled over. "But I want presents too."  Believe you me, I knew it was a lot bigger than just about who's getting presents, and so you can guess who also started crying too.

Anyone want to buy Jack a pony?

Sunday, February 13, 2011


Just looking at our family calendar on Yahoo. Apparently, today was the day we were supposed to take Jack on a Tike Hike of Prentice. At this point, I think Jack could lead the tour himself...there's the orange lollipop stand, there's where we wash our hands, there's the cafeteria where I get whatever I want because my parents are exhausted...

Saturday, February 12, 2011

When life gives you brown bananas...

...make banana bread. After a night of little sleep, I saw those darn brown bananas on my counter and decided to go for it. (I subscribe to my mother's philosophy that I'll rest when I'm dead.) I already pointed you toward this cooking blog before but just had to repeat her banana bread recipe with some teeny tiny modifications. It's super-easy - all in one bowl with no mixer - even a mom of a preemie can do it, with the help of her toddler son:

Banana bread, adapted from Smitten Kitchen
3 to 4 ripe bananas, smashed
1/3 cup melted unsalted butter
3/4 to 1 cup light brown sugar (depending on the level of sweetness you prefer; I use the smaller amount)
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon bourbon (optional)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
scant 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup of flour

Preheat the oven to 350°F. With a wooden spoon, mix butter into the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the sugar, egg, vanilla and bourbon, then the spices. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in. Add the flour last, mix. Pour mixture into a buttered 4×8 inch loaf pan. Bake for 50 minutes to one hour, or until a tester comes out clean. Cool on a rack for about 10 minutes before removing from pan. Slice to serve.

My girlfriend made this for Jeremy and Jack while I was in the hospital for monitoring. They devoured it. And the results were great today too. 

We enjoyed a wonderful visit with long-time friends this afternoon, who we haven't seen in more than a year. They brought their 3-year-old twin boys, and Jack was in heaven. We caught up over Thai food from Penny's (a vestige of our twenty-something days in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood) while the boys ran amok. And when I say amok, I mean amok: Three little boys yelling, dancing, turning lights on and off - I even caught Jack sitting atop his dresser. As they left, Jack declared, "I had fun with my visitors."

Do you know how amazing the human body is? It's amazing. I'm reading Dr. Sears' The Premature Baby Book, and mama's milk for a preemie is actually a different "formula" from that of a mother of a full-term baby. Can you stand it? Also, we've been doing kangaroo care, and apparently my body will change temperature to accommodate Jossie's body temperature. Crazy! We're doing some kangaroo care in my bed as I type this - no worries, I'm not balancing the laptop on the baby. Jazz is playing, Jeremy's playing Angry Birds on the iPad, and Roscoe the cat is snoozing between my legs. For a second, life is almost normal.

I think I'll go send Jeremy for one last piece of banana bread now. Good night! (I just picked my labels for this post and had to laugh - nothing better than babies, breads and family!)

Friday, February 11, 2011

Moving forward

As the monitors, tests and bright lights of the hospital fade into memories, Jeremy and I are moving forward with life. We're here now, and here is good.

Jack is adjusting to being a big brother - he informed us he's taking showers now because he's a big boy but has had some setbacks with potty training. And the Look he gave me when he woke up from his nap yesterday and I was holding that darn baby AGAIN, well forget about it. Though Jack did enjoy Jossie "chasing" him this morning with Daddy's help. And the stunned look on Jossie's face was priceless, her arms outstretched, as Daddy held her in his arms. We're not in the NICU anymore, Toto.

I love my small brood. I love wiping two tushies and tickling two bellies to get little laughs. Homebound because of the cold Chicago weather, I'm enjoying the tiny moments with two small kids - clad in fuzzy pjs with fluffy clean hair after bathtime, waiting for bedtime stories. The music on Jossie's swing endlessly playing because Jack likes to play DJ and Jeremy and I are too tired to turn it off. My little 3-year-old prince asking me if I'll be at his "balentine." I love it all - even the long nights of feeding Joss every two hours and then hearing a little voice yell at 6:30 a.m., "Mommy, I want to wake up now!"

I'm tired and happy.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

We're home

I didn't have a chance to post yesterday because we were released from the hospital! Jossie met the five-day mark for being brady-free (she actually had a small one lasting two seconds in the morning but that did not count) and continues to gain weight.

Here's the moment we've been waiting for weeks for:

I'm typing this the morning after our first night at home. Jeremy and I are exhausted, and I have a big cup of coffee in my "Mama Bear" mug beside me. Jack's been a great big brother so far - he tells me when the baby is crying and keeps asking when she'll be big enough to play with him. (He's expecting her to join him at Pump it Up later today.) We had decorated our door late last week; here's Jack with his handiwork:

We're covered in spit-up stains; we're constantly doing laundry; and we're over-the-top thrilled. We have both of our babies under one roof, and I couldn't ask for more. I'll probably take a blog break for a few days as we get our bearings but more to come as we start this next chapter. Thank you again for sending so much love and support to us; it has sustained us.

Monday, February 7, 2011

February 7 baby update

Today is Jossie's three-week birthday. I was at rounds today and was grateful to hear the doctors' good news. If Jossie continues to do well, she will be released tomorrow afternoon. She's been on a brady-watch since February 3 at 10:40 a.m. (but who's counting...) and has gone four full days without an episode. Less than 24 hours to go at this point!  I feel more confident this time around as opposed to last week's countdown. During last week's, she continued to have brady episodes, but they were less than five seconds in length, so they didn't count in the doctors' eyes. This time around, she hasn't had really any - small or big, so I have high hopes. 

Jossie continues to eat well and gain weight. We're at 4 lb 7 oz, and her only medication at this point is her multi-vitamin with iron (which she grimaces at, just like any other kid). Today has actually been pretty busy for me - between calling our insurance, making pediatrician appointments when we're on the "outside," and we even had a super-cute photo shoot with Joss this morning and the hospital's photography service (they do it all here at Prentice). Jeremy and I are taking a refresher infant CPR class later this afternoon, and Jossie will have a carseat test. She will sit in her carseat for 90 minutes to ensure her heart can handle being in that position.

We're otherwise holding up - seeing a light at the end of the tunnel is very helpful. My youngest sister Laura sent me an email this morning that had my email I sent her, my mom and our other sister exactly four weeks ago, at the beginning of this journey:

Subject: don't be mad...
Sent: Monday, January 10, 2011 12:30pm

...that I am not calling...i haven't felt the baby move in 24 hours so I am going to the doctor's for a stress test to be safe. I will call soon with details but hold off on calling now. I am tired and emotional. I am taking every step to make sure baby is safe.

I never knew what we would be in store for, starting on that fateful day. I continue to be thankful that Jossie is a healthy girl - she just showed up to the party early. In the past day or so, I've talked with two moms of preemies. It's easy to fall into conversation and relay our experiences, and hearing their stories of struggle, makes me grateful that our dear Jossie is healthy.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

February 5 baby update, continued

I spent the afternoon with dear Jossie. She's so little so her cries are kitten-like, but I can see this is a girl who likes to speak her mind. She is never too pleased when we interrupt her sleep with changing her diaper or taking her temperature. Luckily, she is very easy to soothe at this point.

We are still brady-free and we're closing in on the 2.5-day mark at 10:40 p.m. this evening. She is eating well and we had a few good nursing sessions today, which is extremely satisfying. I think it's because it's something I can only do - not a nurse or a doctor. I was there for her weigh-in, and she's 4 lbs 6 oz (2000 grams on the button, gaining 30 grams from the day before).

She had a bath last night, and her hair was in fine form, nice and fluffy in the afternoon sun.

I took a break for dinner and saw a big brother around Jack's age walking with his mommy and new baby out of the hospital tonight. Rather than feel sadness, I felt a lot of hope that we'll be in that place soon.  Speaking of Jack, Jeremy took him to the Chicago Children's Museum today while I was with Joss. While they were there, Jack put a construction hat on Daddy's head, and declared to him, "Daddy, you can be anything you want to be." He'll always be my sweet guy.

I bought Jack a few lollipops from the Argo Tea stand in the hospital lobby, and the Argo guy recognized me as the "orange lollipop lady." This has been Jack's request and we've probably bought 25 or so of these lollipops in the past four weeks.

Four weeks - I can't believe we've been doing this for that long. One week for my hospital monitoring and three weeks for Joss in the NICU. We will get through this, and we'll be home together soon.

February 5 baby update

Jossie continues to up her feedings - she's now at 60 ml (2 oz) of breastmilk per feeding. At her weigh-in last night, she was at 4 lb 5 oz, which is great. Daddy's over there now with her, and I'll spend the afternoon with her. As of this morning, she has been brady-free, which is two days now. Three to go.

Jack is fully better, which is great. We're both going a bit stir-crazy after being stuck in our condo for so long. This morning, we've gone through Play Doh, painting, building with cardboard bricks and TV. Here is Jack's Play Doh rendering of our family:

Friday, February 4, 2011

February 4 baby update

I did not go to Jossie today because of Jack's stomach flu. I have been calling all day to check in on her, and she is doing well. No brady episodes - so we're down one day on the count. She has been eating more, going from 45 ml to 55 ml per feeding, which is almost 2 ounces. As one nurse told me today, "Girlfriend likes to eat!" We will get her new weight tonight around 10 p.m.

Jack is feeling much better - is there such a thing as 12-hour stomach flu? I am glad he is on the mend. This afternoon, I asked him if he knew anyone who was sick (which I admit was a ridiculous question, as I know everyone he knows), and he replied, "Yes, Mommy. Me!"

Right about the time Jack was feeling better, I noticed the City was FINALLY clearing our street of snow and our management company was digging out our driveway for the condo garage. I also got an email from a colleague at work; we got a surprise gift of $50,000 from a new donor. I hope this good news train keeps chugging through next week. And many thanks to my friend today whom I was corresponding with through email; her twins were born at 32 weeks, and she was giving me strength and advice as she relayed her time in the NICU and dealing with her babies' brady episodes.

Sick day

I have to remember that there's a higher power in charge. I now understand why God is keeping Jossie in the hospital a bit longer. Besides letting her grow more, we got hit hard last night with Jack coming down with the stomach flu. I'm home with my little bugger today who is currently sacked out on our bed next to me. The washer and dryer are constantly going, as I'm trying to clean things as quickly as possible (it's almost comical - a nesting mommy trying to keep her home rid of germs as her firstborn continues to get sick). Jack even threw up on the cat. It's not funny right now, but it will be funny someday.

Jeremy visited Jossie this morning, but did not pick her up, in case he was carrying any germies. I'll probably steer clear for a day or so. Luckily, Jossie has our favorite nurse today, and I've already spoken with her a few times. Jossie gained 15 grams yesterday and is up to 3 lb 4 oz. She has been brady-free since her episode at 10:40 a.m. Thursday morning. Did you know that there are 120 hours in five days?

More to come...

Thursday, February 3, 2011

February 3 baby update

Jeremy and I spent the day with Joss today. It was delicious to be reunited with her. She unfortunately had another brady episode this morning around 11 a.m., so the five-day clock restarted again. I want her 100% healthy when we bring her home, but you can probably imagine how frustrating this is for us. I've cried enough tears for all of Chicago.

Every single time she has had a brady episode, she has been able to self-recover, but we of course would never want an episode to happen at home. Jeremy and I have signed up for a refresher course on Monday for infant CPR - it feels good to be doing something.

Jeremy's sister Cassie asked me to be her matron of honor at her wedding today. I was deeply touched and so honored. Jack and Joss will also participate as the cutest ringbearer and flower girl ever. When we asked Jack if he wants to be a ringbearer, he cheered and then said seriously, "what does that mean?" And then I got all teary again (big surprise) because if Joss is timid to walk down the aisle, Cassie suggested that Jeremy carry her down the aisle and so THEN I start thinking about Joss' wedding day and Jeremy walking her down the aisle and hello, waterworks.

Anywho, back to the present: Here's a little love between Daddy and daughter from today:

And we continue to be amazed at the similarities between Joss and Jack. Here's a picture of Jack, a few days old in Daddy's arms from November 2007:

And one last piece of love. We came home to a dinner of chicken pot pie tonight, courtesy of Amy and, yes, that's a heart cut-out in the middle, and, yes, I cried when I saw it.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

My snow day

I wasn't entirely here today. My mind was floating above me, thinking about our situation and our little girl. I helped Jack to build a fort of blankets and pillows, and we made buttermilk pancakes together in the morning, but otherwise Jeremy was the chief caregiver as I quietly organized Jack's baby clothes by age and pulled things out that Jossie could use. I pulled Jack's room apart, organizing each drawer, and the project got bigger and messier as the day wore on. I did countless loads of laundry and am just finishing up now as the evening news signs off.

 I was really thrown for a loop at the news received early today but am comforted by remembering a few things.

To quote Maria, I'm one of the lucky ones. My girl is healthy; she's a preemie and her brain just needs to develop a bit more to master the body's functions. She's in one of the best hospitals in the country and is getting the best care possible. And she's so young right now that she will never remember these moments.  And for all of us, this will soon be behind us, and our family of four will be home under one roof.

Okay - just one moment of sadness: My first night away from Jack was when he was almost 19 months old. It breaks my heart to think about how I haven't been with Jossie overnight in these early weeks of her life, and today, with all of the snow, I haven't seen her in more than 24 hours. I'm drawing strength from my nearest and dearest to get through this moment.

But here's something sweet to end on: Jeremy's sister Cassie got engaged tonight! I don't have all of the details but we are just thrilled for her and Daniel, who Jack has been calling Uncle Daniel for months now. Sweet indeed!

A setback

We learned a few hours ago that Jossie had a brady episode last night at 7 p.m. - four hours shy of going the required five days with no episodes. I'm not sure why the nurses didn't tell us sooner, but here we are. We are very disappointed, especially because we let ourselves start to dream she might come home tomorrow. Jack and I even decorated our front door to welcome her home.

But we are comforted that she is a healthy baby. The brady episode lasted 10 seconds and she self-recovered from it.  It's a result of her being a preemie and her brain just needs to develop a bit more to figure out how everything functions.

Five days from last night is 7 p.m. on Sunday, and on Monday, she'll be 36 weeks gestational age. We will get through this and someday we'll look back at this as just a brief moment in our family's history. Thank you for continuing to follow our story and sending your love and support.

February 2 baby update

I now know what thundersnow sounds and looks like - a blizzard complete with thunder and lightning. The wild weather continues in Chicago. As I sit on my couch, a fuzzy blanket wrapped around me, I can hear a car trying to drive up our snowy street. Jeremy and Jack are sound asleep - this is a snow day for most of Chicago today.

I called the nurse this morning and she told me that Jossie had an "unremarkable" night. Good - we like being the boring patient. She continues to take her bottles well and at larger portions. She only gained 20 grams yesterday (as opposed to 90 grams the day before) but the doctors are glad to see her still gaining - they had taken her off of the calorie supplement so she's only being sustained by Mama's milk at this point. I had a nice supply of milk built up at the hospital, so she will have enough for today if we can't make it to the hospital.

I hate that I can't get to her this morning but we're going to keep tabs on the weather and see if I can go later this afternoon. I can take the Chicago Avenue bus to her if need be. (Luckily, we live very close to the hospital - as my BFF pointed out last night, I could walk to her if I had to!) In the meantime, I continue to put my house back together. I'm down to just the kids' room (yes, eventually, Jack and Jossie will be sharing a room until we move) and a huge mound of laundry. What new mommy has time to clean her house before her newborn comes home? I'm in major nesting mode, which is good for our snowed-in family. Our fridge and cupboards are full, and Jack's toys, board games and books are stacked and organized for a day inside. And I bought balloons and streamers yesterday, so Jack and I could decorate our door to welcome our dear baby home.

What poetic justice for Jack too - his last day at home as an only child (we hope!) and it's a snow day where he gets both Mommy and Daddy to his own. I think we'll make pancakes this morning and take the day from there.

We're hoping Joss will come home tomorrow. We'll know more later today.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

February 1 baby update

Chicago is supposed to get a blizzard tonight - the biggest storm since 1967. Let's see if the weather lives up to the hype...

I just called the hospital for an update on Jocelyn. She is still a rockstar - she continues to be brady episode-free - we're bearing down on the final hours. Tonight at 11 p.m. or so will be the five-day mark. Please let us make it there!

She surprised us all with her 9 p.m. weigh-in last night. She had been moved into her big-girl bed the night before, and we were asking a lot of her little body. We were asking her to work harder to generate her own heat, to continue to eat well and possibly gain weight. The nurses forewarned me that she actually might lose weight.

Well, guess what: She not only gained weight but she gained more than she ever has before in a 24-hour period, going from 4 lb to 4 lb 3 oz! I guess our collective prayer line to God is really working!