Monday, March 27, 2017

Heartbeats

When I was pregnant, the overarching theme of those ten months, the focus, the moments that could ground me or send me into a panic, was heartbeats. It was that way from the very beginning. Did the embryo implant? Could we see the tiny heart beating at 20dpo? What about 22dpo? When we saw that first tiny flicker of Ivy's beating heart, it triggered such a confounding feeling of joy and worry, and it took weeks of followup ultrasounds and then Doppler uses before the worry mostly faded. When my heart rate started to go up a short time into the pregnancy, I'd sit as quietly as I could at the beginning of each prenatal appointment, breathing slowly and half-meditating, telling my heart to relax, but in the end it took medication (that I'm still on) and borrowing a blood pressure cuff from a friend to monitor myself every day. And then in the waning days of pregnancy, sitting for an hour at a time in the clinic's recliner, belted with monitors, knitting wool soakers to keep the minutes ticking away, listening to the quick heartbeat of someone I'd never met but already loved, already was so connected with.

Last night as she slept next to me, I spent a few moments (as I usually do) smoothing Ivy's hair and kissing her little forehead. I rested my fingertips on her belly and felt her slow, even breaths. And then I found her heartbeat, silent under my fingers (so unlike the amplified galloping I heard during prenatal appointments), beating delicately under her little ribs, and I realized that it may have been over a year since I last searched for her heartbeat. All of the prenatal appointments came rushing over me as I felt the tiny thump. So did how I felt during what was likely the last time I felt her heartbeat, when she was newly home, her tiny body between Cory's and mine on the bed, when I couldn't sleep for the disbelief and overwhelming emotion of having a REAL LIFE BABY after all these years and treatments and needles and days in the NICU. Every day I'm thankful for our miracle, but sometimes the littlest things are the greatest reminders of that.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Hospital Visit

We have spent the last few months since my last post being kind of insulated and routine-y, going to work and coming home and doing chores and enjoying watching Ivy continue to develop. I had a post all set to go with a list of words that she could say, but then she had a vocabularial explosion (heh) and I couldn't keep up. She's even started rocking the two-word sentences. So the post remains a draft.

Christmas was also great fun; I loved watching her as she got the hang of unwrapping gifts, and played with her cousins and ate little bits of cookies and things. Oh, and she had a pediatrician appointment last month, where she finally realized that doctor's office = shots and was duly upset, and a routine appointment with her TEF surgeon, where she doesn't get shots but was still concerned that they'd change their minds at any moment. Both appointments were successes; in fact at the surgeon's visit we saw him for a total of three minutes.

For Sunday's dinner, we had some wonton/dumpling things and some stir fry with chicken. Ivy shared out of my bowl, and since I was cutting up individual bites as I went, I cut them especially small and fed them to her.

I sometimes have wondered about whether I cut food up too small, whether Ivy has mostly grown out of needing me to do that extra effort. Sure, things get stuck a little bit, but she has figured out that if she sticks all four fingers down her throat, all the way up to the joint where her fingers meet her palms, she can gag herself and bring up whatever is stuck. It's usually things like tomato skins, or chicken, or various things that she doesn't chew. It scared me a bit at first, and I even asked in the TEF community on Facebook if I should be worried about her new habit. The consensus was that she's pretty smart for figuring out how to get the stuck food out, and I eventually grew used to it. I remember even the other day when I picked Ivy up from daycare, one of her slightly younger classmates was eating whole pretzels. I thought "hm, if other kids are OK eating that stuff, I wonder if Ivy'd be able to work it out?" But the previous week she'd gagged herself and brought up a small piece of ham lunchmeat from 24 hours prior, so I was pretty sure I wasn't being entirely overprotective with my small-cut food and my tomato skinning.

On Sunday night we got ready for bed, and as Ivy was nursing at bedtime she suddenly stopped and stuck her fingers down her throat. She'd only been drinking milk, and had nothing else since dinner, but the fact that milk came up made me wonder if there was something stuck in there, preventing at least some of it from going on. I made a mental note of it, and gave her a bunch of waterwent to sleep. (We ended up having a terrible sleep - she nursed on one side so long that it started to get painful and I tried to pop her off to switch sides, but she was awake enough to fight with me about it. She was wide awake for at least an hour, and I think only half-asleep for lots longer than that. Could it have been because whatever was stuck was uncomfortable? I wasn't sure.)

The next day, we were at lunch when we got a text from daycare, saying that Ivy wasn't able to keep anything down. She'd take a bite and then gag herself, and it was happening a lot more than usual. So we took her home and I left a message for the surgeon - if it was still stuck and bothering her that much, it was starting to seem like a concern.

As I waited for a call back from the surgeon's office, I fed her pineapple juice, which I've read has an enzyme or something that helps stuck food go down, and experimented with giving her purees and very small bites of food. Everything came up, save some of the water and pineapple juice. She didn't act any different than usual, other than the frequent gagging, and that made me feel good - and she had wet diapers so I knew at least some liquid was getting through.

Finally, the surgeon's assistant called back and asked a bunch of questions. At first she'd been leaning towards having us go in that evening, but as Ivy wasn't dehydrated and we were an hour and a half away, she consulted with the surgeon and set up an esophagram (x-ray) for 10:30 the next morning. Almost immediately after the phone call (around 4pm), Ivy fell asleep on me and ended up sleeping for fourteen hours straight. (Hooray!) I took the opportunity to get a few things packed up too, as the surgeon had said there was a chance Ivy would be admitted, depending on what was going on in there.

In the morning, we packed more things (a couple changes of clothes for her and me, in case she puked up barium from the esophagram) on me), some books, a doll or two, etc. and headed up to Portland. Ivy was not excited about the x-ray; she cried a lot as we forced her arms up above her head and pinned her down. But when we were done (it's a pretty quick procedure) I glanced up at the monitor and and could immediately see that something was stuck in there.

We got Ivy dressed and walked up to the surgeon's office to await further instructions. "We need to admit her; we are just waiting for them to get a crib in the room." So we went down to admitting, and then up to the 7th floor of the children's hospital, 5 floors above Ivy's first room in the NICU.

We were third in line on the surgeon's schedule, so we hung out in the (really nice, big) room and tried to play with Ivy a bit and then try to get her to take a little nap. But without being able to nurse, and being in a strange place, she was not at all interest in letting her guard down. It ended up being OK, because it wasn't long before it was Ivy's turn.

We were escorted down to the pre-op room in the basement of the children's hospital, where we talked about the procedure with the OR nurse and the anesthesiologist and the nurse who would be assisting in the procedure. Everyone made sure to repeatedly reassure us that it wasn't a big deal, it wasn't actual surgery, but we really weren't worried - after all, it was being done by the surgeon who did her original esophageal repair. And the procedure was to put her to sleep with gas, put an IV in her hand while she was under, and send a scope down her throat to see what was stuck and pull it out. They would also check to see if she needed a dilation (if the food was stuck because of a narrowing of her esophagus) and do that while she was under.

Then the nurse grabbed Ivy and whisked her away, and we were ushered into a waiting room, where we waited for about 45 minutes, and then the surgeon came out with a little jar of a rather hard-to-identify piece of half-digested food. (And it was a small piece too: about the size of the tip of my finger; easily swallowable by a toddler.) He said everything went just fine, and she had no stricture, but that the food just happened to hit the exact spot where her muscle motility pauses.

I'm not sure how much I've explained that here, from her original surgery, but when the surgeon cut and sewed her up, it meant that the muscles in her esophagus don't move food down in one smooth motion: they stop at the repair site and then pick up again just below.

The surgeon said she'd probably take another ten minutes before we could go in and see her, but it ended up being more like twenty. And then the nurse came in and led us to our sweet sleeping girl, lying on her side with her arms curled up and the sweet little rosebud mouth that she gets when her face is a little squished, just like the day we first met her. Her daddy was the first person she saw when her little eyes opened.

Once she was fully awake (and a little upset), I was able to carry her as we followed the nurse back up to Ivy's room. They took her vitals and we showed her nurses the little vial of what we concluded was likely chicken. (They were all wondering what it was in there!) And then, finally, she was able to NURSE. That was the best part of the day - it was so hard to tell her no when she was in a strange place with strange people and tired and uncomfortable. She nursed for a good long time, and we ordered room service (as a nursing mom, I got a "free" tray and Cory had to pay extra for his) as we hadn't eaten anything since breakfast, aside from a tiny vending machine snack while we were waiting for the procedure to finish.

We had to wait for a wet diaper, which was delivered about an hour after nursing, and then we got discharged. The nurse warned us that IV removal was usually not very fun for little ones (I had been dreading it too) but Ivy just sat on Cory's lap and watched the nurse pull it out. And then we were free! Ivy fell asleep at about 7, as we were on our way home, and we were home by 8. (She only slept until 4am, but that's another story.)

Today she's eating and drinking and acting like normal. I did give her a few tiny pieces of chicken with her dinner tonight, after a lunch of soft foods, and she has stuck her fingers down her throat a couple of times which worries me - but hopefully I'm just being overly concerned. Guess we'll see - that would almost be amusing to go up twice in two days for the same problem twice over. Almost.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Yoga

Last week I started yoga again.

I'd last been in a class something like five days before I went into labor with Ivy, so it'd been almost fifteen months since I crossed my legs on my little blue mat. Once Ivy grew up enough to not need to nurse as often, the next thing I had to get out of the way was the feelings of guilt for being selfish, and figure out how I'd possibly get my evening chores done AND be gone for two hours on a weeknight. But my body, especially my back, had really been letting me know it needed to go back, so I made the decision to just DO it.

On yoga day, work ran a few minutes long, and when we went to pick Ivy up from daycare they wanted to chat with us, so I felt super rushed. The plan was to leave work at 4, pick up the baby and get home by 4:45, change clothes, grab a bite, nurse, and then run to yoga. But we didn't get home until 5, and I had to skip nursing in favor of scarfing down a couple of bites of something, and cursing my way through rush hour traffic on the way back to downtown.

But then I walked in the door of the studio, and stepped into a large airy space, was welcomed by the same teacher and the same two classmates who I'd said goodbye to a year and a half ago (they were in the "normal" yoga class and I'd spent a few of my last months before Ivy taking prenatal classes), and all of the stress of cramming too much stuff into an hour and a half melted away as I sat down on my little blue mat.

I came away from class with a few surprises. One was that I was more limber than I thought, after so long. Muscle memory took over and I was able to drop into some poses pretty easily. And downward dog was way easier than I thought - I credit that to a certain toddler who insists on being carried a lot. But I think the biggest one was that I was overwhelmed by emotion when we were meditating. All of these yoga memories just kept coming up - stopping in with a tiny Ivy to say hello to my teacher, sitting in the window seat watching people go by while waiting for class to start - and the biggest one that I'd forgotten until then was the night before I took my pregnancy test after our last round of IVF. I couldn't concentrate on anything and was so worried about the outcome that I was crying as I went through the poses. That memory kinda hit me in the face and made me a little bit teary, as I navigated past it and through other infertility memories and fragments of feelings that I hadn't felt in awhile. It never totally goes away, I guess.

I went home and an exhausted Cory immediately handed a very upset Ivy off to me and promptly went to sleep. Luckily, so did Ivy, so I was able to sneak away and finish my chores, still on my yoga high.

I think it'll still take a bit of time before I feel totally in control of Thursday evenings, and able to handle chores with an hour and a half less in the evenings. But being able to move my body, and center myself, and work through old emotions - totally worth it.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Beach Day

For a very long time, our beach trips have looked like this: drive over with the dog, go down to the beach and walk a little, maybe pick up a few shells and rocks, throw the ball for the dog, pack up the dog, go to Rogue Brewery for lunch, and go home. The only messy bit was the dog and we'd just hose him off if he was really bad.

Now, of course, things are very different! Yesterday I took Ivy to the beach for the "first time." (She has been before, but she was young enough that she didn't even touch the sand, I just carried her - and it looked a lot like our old-normal trips.) I was going to take Linus, but in the end I realized it'd probably be a lot of extra work so I left him home.

It was supposed to be 95 in the valley yesterday, so an escape to the beach was really nice. It was still foggy when we got there at 10am, and when my friend and her kids arrived we loaded ourselves up and made the short trek down to the beach from the parking area at Cape Lookout State Park.

Ocean-blue Eyes

We set up our little shade tent cabana things, managed to figure out how to eat some lunch without getting too much sand everywhere, and it turns out Ivy's favorite pastime at the beach is playing in the surf. I held both of her hands and we'd walk out towards the water, and then when a wave came I'd run backwards with her to a spot where the water would only reach to her ankles. We did this over and over, until my back would get too upset with me and then we'd go back to the little cabana for a break.

In the meantime, we practiced together how and when and where to put on sunscreen, how to keep a hat on, and how not to eat sand. Sorta. Not really the last one. As Ivy started getting tired and punchy, she started to eat more and more sand, and we played the really not that enjoyable game of "try to keep the sand out of my mouth and fail, mama." So as my friend and her older kids (who do not eat sand) played more, I packed up our stuff and got as much sand as I could out from between toes, and Ivy slept in the car as we made the hour trek to Lincoln City to meet some relatives for a couple of hours. And when we got home I was happy to see I succeeded in my attempts to keep sunburn at bay!

I think it's still going to take some practice, but for a first try it was a pretty successful little trip.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Two Things

Two random things that happened in the last few days:

Cory said he was watching Ivy play alone the other day, and she was talking to herself, and suddenly started laughing. She must have told herself a joke. I wonder what it was.

Also, yesterday I was trying to read to her before a nap, and I pulled a book off of the shelf and showed it to her and she shook her head and said "no." (It sounded like "nah" though.) I ended up going through all of her books, showing her each one and her shaking her head and saying no, until she settled on one. It happened again in the evening, but she was much more amenable to books than she was in the afternoon; I think she was just learning that she could say no to something so she was practicing. If it keeps happening, though, we're gonna have to start hitting the library for some new material!

Bonus thing: this weekend was the pits for poor Miss I, but she was such a trooper. On Friday we went for a little drive up to Mount St. Helens, and partway through the day I noticed her eye was a little swollen and gunky. Turns out it was the beginning of conjunctivitis! It spread to the other eye over the weekend, and on Monday first thing I called the doc and they called in a prescription just based on my description over the phone. Then on Sunday she reached for one of her little walkers and lost her balance and hit her mouth on the handle, and either split her lip on the handle or bit it with her new teethies. I think it was the first bloody injury she's had to deal with. It's still swollen today, but it hasn't seemed to bother her since the initial shock and pain. Poor thing. And her eyes look much better now that she's had a day of antibiotic ointment, but I'll be spending most of the next couple of days checking my own eyes in the mirror to see if she shared her germs with me.

Cory's been making little videos of our travels this summer; here's the one from St. Helens.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

13 Months

I didn't mean to sit down and write a post on Ivy's 13-month birthday, but here we are. (Edit: sometimes we forget to hit the publish button. Whoops.) She is currently taking one bite of chicken and throwing the rest of the handful on the floor. Both the dog and cat will love her today.

This weekend we visited my mom, three hours away. Ivy got a convertible car seat that was delivered on Thursday, so we switched out the baby seat (a friend sent me a link to Consumer Reports, who said it was dangerous for kids over 1 to stay in an infant seat, and I also got a really really good deal on this one - a Graco Size4me 65, for $45!) and headed over the mountains. Turns out Grandma's house is magic: last time we were there (Memorial Day weekend I think), Ivy popped her first tooth. And this weekend she popped her second tooth (on top, same side as the bottom one) AND took her first few steps unassisted! I need to go there more often, I think, so she can get caught up on her teeth. She didn't fuss, either, which was great - I just happened to see that it was there. I'm praying for my poor nipples now, haha.

We also THINK we are hearing more words. She said "hoo hoo hoo!" along with us when we were playing with her little stuffed owl. I'm pretty sure she says doggie and kitty. She says "uh oh" when she drops things, of course.

We are at that point now where she is almost not interested at all in baby food anymore. I'm not sure if it's that she likes feeding herself, or if she just prefers "real" food, but I have been wasting squeeze pouches left and right. She is doing a really good job swallowing everything, and when she does get something stuck in her esophagus a little bit of water gets it the rest of the way down. And I can tell she's eating some pretty big chunks of food sometimes. Chew, silly!

She's also learning body parts. She did a good job with "nose" until we taught her "ears," and now when we ask her where her nose is she points to her ear. We're also practicing "toes" and "tummy." Sometimes she gets it.

There's also a lot of new personality developing, which is so great to watch. The other day she crawled all the way across the park from where we were sitting in the grass, across two cement paths, and into the wood-chipped play area. She "sings" a lot. And she likes making people laugh - she's getting pretty goofy. I love it.

Ah, dinner was short-lived. Someone is tearing her bib off.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

What Comes Next

Thought I'd pop in really quickly with a little anecdote from last night.

Our bath time routine is what everyone else's is, I'm sure: get in, play, wash, put the toys away, open the drain in the tub, get out. At the end of Ivy's bath last night, I had her hand me her toys one by one. When the toys were cleaned up, she turned and pointed at the drain plug. Yes, baby, that's what comes next! Good job!