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The One Where Ben Went to the Eye Doctor

Ben’s 1-year check-up appointment was mostly a success. He weighs 20lbs 9oz, up 5xs his birth weight. He’s clapping, pulling to stand, eating table foods, walking along furniture, and saying simple things like “mama” and “dada”. These are all right on track with what a 12 month old should be doing and we couldn’t be happier.

Getting 4 shots and a finger poke sort of sucked the big one, but he got lots of snuggles and kisses after.

We’ve noticed over the past 4 or 5 months that Ben’s left eye dilates much more than his right when in low light. We mentioned this at his 9 month appointment and were told we’d come back to it if it was still an issue at his year. Ben’s right eye also has near constant drainage and often needs warm compresses to clear out.

We were referred to an eye doctor and miraculously nabbed the one open appointment in 2014 for Friday. (We’ve met our deductible and then some, so anything we can get in this year, the better!) I was warned it would be a 2 hour appointment and Ben would have to have his eyes dilated.

You know that episode of Friends where they have to pin Rachel down to put drops in her eye? That gives you an idea of a FRACTION of the fear I feel when it comes to eye doctors. I cry, I sweat, I shake…my personal hell would be an eternity of math classes and eye examines. I do not exaggerate here, friends.

Like always, Ben was a champ, even when the nurse put in the drops that stung his poor little eyes. The most traumatizing thing for him was when I had to take his bottle away to go back in the exam room. Oh, were there tears and screams.

When it comes to the dilation issue, the eye doctor didn’t see anything scary pressing on the nerve, or nerve damage. He referred it back to our primary doctor to decide what to do next; wait and see, pursue further testing, neurologist, etc. We will talk to her Monday so I’ll know more then. It’s a little unsettling to wonder what is causing his eye to not work properly, but I guess for now that I will be grateful there was nothing immediately concerning that he could see.

The clogged/underdeveloped tear duct is the immediate issue. The odds of it healing on its own now that he’s a year old is 1-2%. A simple surgery is needed to put a probe in Ben’s duct to open it up. He won’t need full anesthesia and the procedure will take next to no time.

But still…haven’t we already done enough sending him in to surgery once?

I called the coordinator immediately after the appointment with the slimmest of hope that I could get Ben in this year (remember about the deductible) but of course, they were full up. So I scheduled the surgery for January, called Dustin to fill him in and then sat in the car for a good twenty minutes while Ben napped in complete, numb disbelief: we will be $6 grand in the hole before the end of January.

Deductibles are our worst enemy. We met our 2013 one, then met our 2014 one under my insurance, then when we switched to Dustin’s we met it again thanks to PT and the helmet. That friends is how you can become so far in medical debt even when you have insurance.

Disbelief is the best word I can think of to describe that moment. I wasn’t angry, sad, scared…just numb to it all. Resigned to a life always under the thumb of medical debt.

But then…

A half hour later the coordinator called Dustin and I to say that the doctor decided to do surgeries on Christmas Eve morning and would we like to switch our appointment?

Gee, let me think…YES!

I hate medical insurance! I hate that we are choosing to spend Christmas Eve in the goddamn hospital because it means the difference of $6,000. Waiting 3 weeks would mean we would owe $6,000 of what I’m sure will be a $10,000+ procedure. Doing it on Christmas Eve means it’s under our deductible.

So that’s that. Surgery on Christmas Eve. Unanswered questions about his other eye. I’m grateful and numb and tired and feeling so sorry that Ben has to do another surgery.

But we’ll be home for Christmas morning, and in our little family, that’s progress.

For The Next 15 Days, I’m On A Sarah-Cation

I made a decision today.

For the remainder of 2014 I will not be doing any work. This is a Sarah-Cation, and I need it. Badly.

Writing is, of course, something I have to do because if I don’t I become all around crabby. But writing books is still work. One day I hope I can call it my full-time work.

I published my 3rd book over Thanksgiving weekend. My usual pattern has been to relax for about a day, then dive in to the many scribbled notes I have for the next project I want to tackle. And believe me, I have about 5 solid starts of what could become book 4.

But I’ve decided to break pattern and spend the free time I’m given over the rest of this year taking PTO from my book writing. Aside from additional time with family I will spend this time: reading, knitting, napping and trying to smashbook Ben’s baby book. I’ll go back to writing books once 2015 rolls around. My goal for 2015? Publish at least 2. 3 would make me proud. We’ll see how close I get.

I’ll still blog because see above, re: crabby sans writing. But the work of thinking, plotting, outlining, and writing an entire book – that’s gonna be on pause for the next 15 glorious days.

If you took a “you-cation”, what would you let go of? What would you get done instead? (And remember, napping counts!)

It’s Ben’s Party and We’ll Cry (or puke) If We Want To.

Friday afternoon, less than 24 hours before Ben’s party, our washing machine broke and flooded our entire basement. Dustin and his mom were down there for about 4 hours with shop-vacs and fans trying to clean up. I left Ben with my mom so I could run all the party errands we hadn’t run because we had been so sick the last week.

I got home to find the basement mostly dried out and probably useable for the party. The washing machine was definitely broken, but I had done lots of laundry during the week so we could deal with that hurdle after the party. We unloaded groceries, Dustin took a much needed shower, and exhausted, we both climbed in bed around 9:15 p.m. We were just pulling the covers when Ben started to cough and cry. Not the “I’m just fussing in my sleep” cry but a “something isn’t right” cry.

I went into his room and put my hand on his head and it was drenched. I thought he was really sweaty, maybe getting a fever and finally catching the virus we both had. But then I moved my hand down to his back and it was drenched…and chunky.

Turned on the light to find vomit everywhere.

We spent the next 2 hours cleaning up puke, getting puked on, and cleaning up more puke. Except for we couldn’t wash anything because, you know, the washer was broken.

We took turns holding Ben throughout the night. He would sleep for about 30 minutes and then thrash and cry from the cramps I could feel tightening his poor tummy.

Since he kept liquids in from about midnight on, we decided not to waste the party and went ahead. He wasn’t nearly at 100% of his usual self but we all enjoyed the presence of family and friends. In this horrific, ass-kicking year it is their presence that has helped keep us sane.

He slept well Saturday night, but on Sunday (after our friends dropped off their old but working washing machine that they don’t need after scoring a new set on Black Friday…thank the Lord for people like them!) he was pale, running a fever, coughing, and just sort of in a zone.

So we missed our great Aunt Ethel’s 102nd birthday party because Ben simply wasn’t up for it, nor did we feel right bringing a baby so clearly ill to such an elderly woman. Huge disappointment, because how many people do you know that turn 102?

Dustin and Ben stayed home while Maddie and I drove to Chippewa Falls to attend Arlan’s funeral. Sad, sad, sad all around. That doesn’t do how I feel justice by any means, but I’m spent.

On the drive home my stomach starts hurting but I figure it’s just from the greasy Burger King we ate for dinner. I get home and Dustin has a headache. We go to bed around 11pm, and by 2 Dustin is up sick as a dog. By 5:30, so am I.

Our plans today (Dustin took the day off) were to take Ben to Mall of America to look at all the Christmas lights, see Santa for the first time, and then go to Underwater World, because Ben LOVES aquariums and looking at fish tanks.

Instead Dustin is laying in agony in bed, and I’m watching Ben play on the floor since, as of now, I’m not as sick as my poor husband.

Ironically the HIMYM episode where Lily thinks she has food poisoning came on our autoplay this morning. When Marshall realizes he has a glimpse of 3 hours into his future, his reaction sums up how I feel perfectly:  Lily, this year, this nasty schoolyard bully of a year will not stop punching me in the face.How did we kick off 2011? My dad died. And now after five months of unemployment, I just blew my dream job.The good news is, in a few seconds, I’m gonna start heaving my guts out because that’s what life is for me now; just losing what’s inside until I’m just empty.

So we’ve had the weekend from hell, and this year has been the biggest bully ever. And it isn’t fair that we can’t enjoy Ben’s first birthday.

But the surprise twist at the end? Lily isn’t sick, she’s pregnant.

Our twist? Ben is here, having his first birthday. When we look back at our pregnancy, the miscarriage of his twin, the scary way it came to an end…he’s here, he’s (usually) healthy, and he is truly the sweetest human being I’ve ever been around. And I get to be his momma, which sort of fills up all that we’ve lost.

Cheers to a healthy year 2 with our special little guy.

A Preemie’s Birthday, A Momma’s Nightmares

I’ve been warned that having a preemie turn 1 (or celebrate any birthday, but usually 1 is the worst) is a hard time for the preemie parent. Sometimes the painful pieces can outweigh the happy ones. I’m trying not to let this happen to me, but it isn’t easy. I’m not ashamed to say that Ben’s upcoming birthday holds more terrifying memories than happy ones.

I was out running errands tonight in preparation for his party tomorrow (this was after our basement flooded again thanks to a wonky washing machine…yeah, 2014 needs to wrap up any time now) and I was struck again and again at the replay of “this time last year”.

This day last year mom took me to the doctor for a BPP. Me and the baby failed. The nurse was going to bring me into an exam room, but then changed her mind and left us in the dark ultrasound room. I remember trying (and failing) not to cry. The doctor came in and said she was going to send me to the hospital for the millionth time for an NST and to yet again be prepared to possibly meet my son that evening.

This time was different. Instead of letting me lay however was comfortable I had to lay on my right side. My blood pressure was climbing, my amniotic fluid dropping, but the baby-that-would-be Ben keep kicking and giving us a strong heart beat. After a few hours and a steroid shot to boost lung development I was sent home with orders to repeat the test the next day.

Dustin picked me up from the hospital, and we stopped at Target because we finally accepted that it was time to pack a “going to the hospital” bag. The trouble was that every tip and trick list I had read didn’t tell me what to do for preterm birth. Still, there were a few things I knew to buy for certain. The most important was a bathrobe. All the books said to bring a bathrobe so you would be comfortable and have easy access to nurse or to cover up when company came by. I have clear memories of snuggling in my mother’s ratty old bathrobe as a child, and I had visions of my son doing the same. I chose a grey robe with white polkadots.

That night we packed a bag and when we went to bed I lay away, never really sleeping, willing the baby to move, begging him to stick it out, apologizing that my body was failing him.

A year ago tomorrow I would be logging off of my work computer for the last time and bringing my hospital bag to the doctor. I would fail another BPP, get another steroid shot, and be admitted to a room to wait for the definitively early arrival of Ben. A year ago tomorrow I would be limited to one 5 minute shower per day, multiple BPPs and NST, higher blood pressure medications and lots of shots for my worsening diabetes.

A year ago Sunday we would be put through the wringer of failing tests, almost having the baby, then being told to wait just a while longer. The hope of making it to 36 weeks, then 34, then 33 would be dashed with every failed test. A year ago Sunday we would meet with a NICU nurse who would introduce us to the terrifying world of uncertainty and prematurity. A year ago Sunday I was laying awake while Dustin slept on a pull out couch when the nurses brought in the forms for a C-Section and bracelets for Baby Boy Solmonson and his parents, which would burn our skin for 17 days of living at the hospital.

And then, a year ago on Monday, Dustin would have been holding my hand while a nurse on her knees says, “Come on, baby, breathe” while the clock runs out on our timed BPP. A rush of doctors, nurses, anesthesiologists, monitors, IVs, shoving Dustin in the corner to change into scrubs. Me telling Dustin not to call my mom, who was on her way, because she didn’t need to know I was going into surgery while she was driving. A flurry of people pulling me from bed, wrapping a blanket around me, walking me to the OR. A year ago on Monday was the spinal, the bright lights, the beeping, and the single, short, solitary cry as Ben came into the world.

A year ago on Monday was the moment I saw my son, white as a ghost, silent and small and my first thought, my very first thought at his presence: is he dead? Waiting to be told he died, the relief when he hadn’t but the fear of him being taken away. A year ago Monday I would be stitched up and finally wheeled to see him. A year ago Monday he was surrounded by wires and tubes and monitors and cords and beeping, ticking, all in a hot, tiny room that still seemed too big for him where others would care for him in ways we couldn’t for 17 days.

A year ago Monday I could touch his leg with one finger. Only for a second.

I’ve had nightmares of NICU before, but this week has been worse. It’s an anniversary of a birth but also the death of people who hadn’t lived moment by moment in that hell. I rocked Ben to sleep this morning and cried, not because my baby is turning 1 but because a year ago today I didn’t know if we would ever be sitting in that rocking chair together, tired from a morning of playing.

As far as Ben knows, until he’s old enough to comprehend this, his birthday will always be a celebration. We all deserve that. But it doesn’t change the fact that his birthday was also a nightmare, one that we are slowly coming out of as he grows and shows promise of normal development.

But this is our job, isn’t it? To carry the burdens for our children so their lives are as carefree as possible. I couldn’t keep you to term, Ben, but I will surely give you the childhood you deserve.

Prayer Requests! (Or good juju, or whatever you call them.)

I’ve asked for good thoughts and prayers from the kind folks who read my blog many, many times, so I hope you don’t mind that I’m once again putting out the call.

One of my very best friends, Tia, whom I’ve referenced many times on this site, had to do something none of us should ever have to do today: she walked into her father’s hospital room and had to see him sick, failing, pumped up with drugs, while her mother stood vigil since 4am. There was a treatment plan, and then there wasn’t, and now the plan is to make him comfortable. I’m at a loss for words as these are very dear friends – family, really, they are our family – and will likely post something more coherent later, but for now, just know this family is facing the loss of someone they love just before Christmas and they need your good thoughts and well wishes.

Additionally, Tia’s son (Ben’s BFF Emmett) was sick with probable pneumonia over Thanksgiving. Tia was ill too, sort of recouped, and is now sick again with bronchitis. And as for me, yesterday was the first day in 5 days that I went to bed without a fever. Tia and I both sound like men who have smoked the better part of their lives, and I really would love to see us both returned to health as soon as possible. Dustin began coughing last night and is already in bed hacking away, so if you could add him to the list too, awesome. He preemptively started taking cold-eaze and vitamin C earlier this week, so here’s hoping that stuff actually helps out some!

And lastly, Ben-B-Jamin has somehow managed to stay healthy through all this, minus a case of pinkeye last week. If he could just make it through his first birthday on Monday without catching this respiratory crap, which is the scariest of crap to think of preemie lungs catching, I would be beyond grateful. My baby deserves good health on his birthday!

Thanks everyone. I love this virtual community, and appreciate you taking the time to think of me and my favorite people in the midst of your busy lives.

XOXO

Sarah

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Arlan, Emmett and Kathy in our backyard this summer for family photos and a BBQ. I see this picture and I think of cinnamon rolls, Arlan playing with Ace, swimming in an inflatable pool in their backyard with Mike’s Lemonade in hand, the day they came to see Ben in NICU, photographing the two of them before their anniversary party…so many good memories with such a wonderful family.

My Quiet Little Book Launch.

As some of you may know, I’ve written a couple of books. Life long ambitions and all that. One of my biggest fears about becoming a mother was that my writing career would either stall or die altogether.

It wasn’t easy. Sacrifices were most definitely made. But somehow, I managed to put together this quick, snappy little read for the busy pregnant mom-to-be: 

CervixBookCoverI wrote this book (and am working on the part 2) with this template from Copyblogger in mind. If you’re struggling with tackling an entire novel, I suggest giving this 20,000 eBook thing a go.

So there you have it. A third book from a woman petrified she would never write again once motherhood took over. I can’t help but be proud.

And that cover – can I just say once again how grateful I am to be married to someone with design skills? If you’re looking for reasonably priced cover art, please contact my husband! (dustin.solmonson@gmail.com). If you’re in the market for an editor, mine can be found here.

Book launch news aside, our Thanksgiving weekend was fast and furiously fun. Ben is now pulling to standing with ease, and tentatively taking steps along the couch. Dustin and I knocked out Ben’s Christmas and birthday shopping on Black Friday, scoring some majorly good deals at Kohls on Little People toys! Saturday was exceptionally gorgeous, so we bundled up Ben and took him outside for his first sled ride.

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And now the countdown to the Big First Birthday begins. T-14 days and this once 4lb 3oz preemie will be 1! I feel like screaming WE MADE IT, both about the birthday and my book.

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That 30th Birthday Present I Don’t Regret (Revealed).

Whew. Secret keeping over. I feel so much better!

Dustin has mentioned more than once how cool it would be to see the Vikings play at TCF Stadium. “But not this year, obviously”, he always adds, because we both know silly things like football games are so very out of the question.

Until they aren’t. Like when I go c-r-a-z-y and decide he’s earned it and I buy tickets to the  Vikings-Packers game.

30th birthday? NAILED IT. Feeling like an awesome wife. Well, we didn’t win, but whatever.

Now back to our regularly scheduled frugality.

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