Week 17: Shots Are Stupid

I’m going to change up my “Ben’s Baby Book” format a bit – instead of days, I am going to post on him weekly. I always knew I would change this up eventually, and since we made it past the 100ish days mark, now seems like a good time.

Ben had his 4 month well check on Tuesday. It’s funny to me how he is seen by his doctor on his chronological schedule but his progress is adjusted for his corrected age. We walk out of the appointment with a yellow packet of paper talking about all the things that our 4 month old should be doing and eating and showing interest in and almost none of it applies to Ben.

I wonder if they ever think of mass producing preemie packets? At least then the information would be useful for us and I wouldn’t have to take notes on the term baby packet so I can remember it all later.

Anyway, the only two things Ben is on track for is increased drooling (oh goody!) and his sleep schedule. I’ve worked incredibly hard during the day and we’ve worked hard in the evenings to get Ben into good sleep habits. I do not want to be one of those parents who has to work for 2 hours to get my kid to sleep. I don’t want Ben to be one of those kids who can’t self soothe. So during the day I watch for his sleepy cues (red eyelids, yawns) and when I see them, we do a diaper check, read a book, snuggle for a minute, then I lay him down with his noise machine on and leave the room. Normally, unless he has a burp to work out from being laid down, he’s out after a couple of minutes of talking to himself.

At night, we keep things mellow and keep the lights low from about 7:00p.m. on. We load him up with a bottle, read him several books, snuggle and sing a lullaby, then lay him down and leave the room. There was a whole section in the packet about troubled sleepers at this age and how usually those are the infants who are rocked all the way to sleep, or sleep on someone frequently, so when they wake up they don’t know how to self soothe back to sleep. I was all, “hell yeah!” when I read that the cure to braking these bad sleep habits is basically exactly what we’ve been doing.

Ben’s flat head on his right side isn’t getting any better, and while he is finally showing signs of being able to willingly turn his head to the left, he has maybe 10% of the range of motion that he does to the right. He also won’t do tummy time unless he’s laying on your chest – any other position and he lays face down and sucks on the blanket/cushion. We were referred to physical therapy at the Children’s Hospital and given the warning that he may have a helmet in his future. I don’t want him to have a helmet because it’s just one more thing he’s got to tolerate and endure as a preemie. And, truthfully, I don’t want to fight with insurance for the upwards of $3,000 that they cost that typically insurance doesn’t cover. This is bullshit to me – who would put their infant in a helmet just for cosmetic reasons?

Our doctor predicts Ben will not start rolling over until 7-9 months chronological, and we won’t talk about starting cereal until his 6 month appointment. Only time will tell if she’s right on his mobility!

Normally Dustin comes with to these big appointments, but since he was at a web conference in Saint Paul this week for work, I had to go alone. I’ve never wanted to be the one to hold Ben down for his shots. I hate shots. I still cry at shots. And while it isn’t fair to put the burden on Dustin, the shots bring out Ben’s pain cry, and I so keenly remember that little cry from his heel pricks in NICU and…it sucks. Shots are stupid. So necessary, but so stupid.

I did my best to be brave for the baby, but it seems like such a cruel trick. He took the oral meds with no problem and was smiling and cooing at the technicians. I had to hold his hands up by his ears and watch as his huge smile turned into a red faced cry of pain. Huge crocodile tears and sobs. Then one of the injection sites was bleeding so I couldn’t pick him up until they got him bandaged.

Usually when Ben gets upset he calms down shortly after burrowing in to my shoulder. Not this time. He sobbed and sobbed while I got him dressed, while we walked to the car, for most the ride home, during his diaper change…it was horrible, and so unlike our sweet tempered kid. I told Dustin I would be getting nothing done that day because once Ben had his bottle I knew he would pass out, and he was going to nap as long as he wanted wrapped up in his favorite blanket on my chest.

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He napped for 3.5 hours this way, whimpering every so often in his sleep. This was the first time I’ve ever been truly grateful that he wasn’t in daycare. I clearly remember parents bringing their baby in from shots, saying they were “a little sensitive”, and how those babies were anywhere from cranky to completely unhinged the rest of the day. When a baby is sick or in pain, they want their parents! He was a little better by the evening, but it took a good 24 hours before he totally perked up.

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I busted out his new (read: used, .50 at a consignment sale) dinosaur toy to try to cheer him up after his shots. I think it slowly won him over.

On Wednesday night Dustin and I were giving Ben a bath when the most amazing thing happened – Dustin was splashing Ben and poking his nose, and Ben giggled! Full on belly giggles! They were brief, almost like they popped out without him knowing it and then made him laugh again because of the funny sensation, but they were awesome. We have the whole thing recorded, and I think I’ve watched it 100 times already.

My mom took a couple of personal days this week so today she came over to hang out with Ben while I worked on sorting and pricing some of our garage sale donations. I worked for about 4 hours straight and went through at least 10 boxes and 5 garbage bags of stuff. I cleaned glass, polished knick-nacks…it was a lot of work, and I feel like I barely made a dent in the amount of stuff we have been given to sell!

Ben and mom hung out on the couch while I worked, and mom got to spoil Ben rotten with hugs, kisses, stories, walks around the house, time with his mobile, and a great deal of time reaching for his new favorite purple octopus toy (another awesome .50 consignment sale find). She has so much fun playing and interacting with him, and it’s really neat to see him start to recognize other people. She gets such a kick out of every smile he gives her – I get a kick out of seeing her so happy.

The puppies, her former “grandchildren”, are less than thrilled with this new arrangement.

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This afternoon I went back to my OB for my next depo shot and a pesky blood pressure recheck. I failed the damn thing at 151/85, so now I have to go to a family doctor and get treated for high blood pressure. Stupid pregnancy, did it ever do a number on my body. I conveniently “forgot” that my doctor wanted me to re-take the diabetes test just to make sure I’m not one of those women who develops type 2 diabetes after having gestational diabetes. I’ll have it done soon – maybe at the next shot in three months. Maybe by then I won’t instantly start sweating when I walk into that office. If I didn’t love my doctor so much I would switch, because I hate that clinic, it takes me right back to being sick, to miscarrying, to being sent to the hospital time and time again. Maybe in another three months I’ll be in a better place.

That is, until they tell me I still have diabetes. That would be almost more stupid than having to get shots. :P

How a Little Bit of Blood Goes Much Further Than Buckets of Gore

Dustin and I love, love, love horror movies. I’m actually afraid of what will happen when Ben gets old enough to look through our massive DVD collection. He may run away to one of his aunt’s house where they only watch family friendly sitcoms and not zombie/ghost/possession on a regular basis.

Oh, who am I kidding. He’s our kid. He’ll love this stuff too.

It had been MONTHS since we’d gotten to a movie (I think the second Hunger Games movie was the last one we went to before Ben was born) so it was only appropriate that our first movie date together was Oculus, a smart and way creepy psychological thriller.

I was impressed by this movie for many reasons (don’t worry, no spoilers ahead). The lead female actress was smart. She put every dumb triple-D, wet t-shirt wearing, trips 18 times while running on a flat surface horror actress to shame. The dialogue was a well written cat-and-mouse between brother and sister, leaving me wondering over and over again what was real and what was delusion. The only disappointment I had was in the ending – it was okay, but Dustin and I had a few thoughts on what would have been just a smidge creepier.

Above all, I enjoyed the way Oculus used just enough blood to be truly unnerving and not disgusting. There’s only so much of Saw or Texas Chainsaw I can handle before I have to cover my eyes, not from fear but from disgust. Torture porn doesn’t do it for me. I would much rather be scared than nauseated.

Case in point – Kaylie is replacing lightbulbs that the entity (or her imagination?) keeps popping. She bites an apple, sets it down beside the lightbulbs, finishes up, then grabs her apple and walks away. We only see her back as her hand raises for another bite. Then there’s the crunch of glass instead of the crunch of an apple and she freezes. When the camera comes closer we hear her gasp, and the faintest spattering of blood hits the white lightbulb she has just taken a bite of.

As she trembles and whimpers, reaching in to her mouth to remove the glass, we know her mouth is bloody. It’s too dark inside, and there is the hint of deep red blood on her lips. As she tentatively reaches for the piece of glass, we see just enough blood to make us smack our lips and grimace, because we are totally in the moment with her.

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The director could have gone another way entirely – after all, she bites into a freaking lightbulb! This scene could have been filled with blood and gory pieces of her cut up tongue hitting the floor. But a little bit used well can go so much further than a lot used wrong.

Oculus was a smart horror movie with just the right amount of paranormal and blood to make me uncomfortable. It was creepy enough that I am a little wary of the tall standing mirror that we picked up this weekend as part of a donation to Ben’s garage sale. If you’re looking for smart, creepy, well-acted horror, you will enjoy Oculus.

For those who have seen it, what were your thoughts? Did you like the ending? Or are you the type that doesn’t find enjoyment out of being scared for fun?

What We’ve Sacrificed So I Can Be a Stay-At-Home Mom

I’m in my second week of stay-at-home mom work and ya’ll know me well enough by now to know I call it like it is. I’ve had a few people tell me how lucky I am to now be at home full time with Ben – let me tell you, luck has nothing to do with it. Insanity has more to do with it than luck!

In addition to giving others considering the stay-at-home life a shot an idea of what you might find yourself giving up, I am writing this post because I’ve very keenly felt the sting of our sacrifices this week. So without further adieu, here are a few of the things we’ve given up so Ben can have a stay-at-home mom:

Financial security. Not only have we emptied our savings account to pay for medical bills that just continue to grow, but going from two incomes to one meant giving up my 401(k) contributions and company matching. Our short and long term security has been put in a risky place to make this happen.

Financial freedom. We were always a frugal minded couple, but now that mindset has been pushed to the extreme. Gas money and how many miles we can afford to drive in a week is now something we have to factor in. Case in point – last week we had already used our gas money and both our tanks were on empty. We emptied several change jars from around the house, walked to the bank, and with the $58 we cashed in we were able to fill our cars.

Zumba. My gym membership was pretty affordable at $35/month…when we had two incomes. When I was put on bedrest and had to quit Zumba I counted down the days until I would be able to go back. No sooner was I cleared than we realized Ben couldn’t go to daycare, so we cancelled my membership. Which leads to…

My body. Obviously, a woman sacrifices her body when she gets pregnant. I had big plans to get back into shape while having “me time” by going to my usual 2-4 Zumba classes every week. Giving up the gym has also meant that the baby weight isn’t falling off as fast as I’d like. I cried when, after a 3 mile walk, my calorie counter said I had burned a measly 148 calories. 1 hour of Zumba burned between 800-1,100 calories. It’s hard to get jazzed up about a walk knowing those numbers!

Little luxuries. I had a photography job last weekend which is why I was comfortable with Dustin and I spending $12 to see Oculus (great flick, by the way). I am REALLY missing my Rockstars for my caffeine fix, but at $1.74 per can, I can buy a 32 pack of Diet Coke at Costco for the cost of 5 Rockstars. Another example – my last haircut was 18 weeks ago. I cancelled my last appointment to save money. Ladies will understand how annoying it is to be overdue on a haircut.

Daily adult interactions. I am very grateful for the warmer weather and being able to take Ben outside. The warmer it gets, the less house crazy I will feel. But I’m quickly learning that getting out of the house doesn’t solve the complete and utter loneliness that comes from being alone all day, every day. You really appreciate your coworkers when you find yourself going days without interacting with another adult (spouse not included).

Clothes. I’ve never been big on shopping and I am all about thrifting, but when you’re short with curves (and even more curves after having a baby) it can be damn near impossible to find pants that fit in stores that offer a plethora of sizes. I don’t fit in any of my pre-baby jeans, but my maternity pants are too big (as in, they fall down after I take 3 steps). So this weekend we stopped at Savers so I could try and find a pair of pants that fit. After an hour of flipping through the random selection of sizes that thrift stores offer, I tried on 5 pairs of pants and none fit. None. Not only did this make me feel like shit about my body, but I’m still stuck in too-big maternity pants.

Those are just a few things that come to mind after 7 days of doing the SAHM thang. Emotionally all the change from the past 6 months is definitely wearing on me! Miscarriage, turbulent pregnancy, preterm baby, NICU, quarantine, quitting job…holy buckets, that’s a lot to cope with. And being alone all day doesn’t help. Have I been around for some really awesome moments? Absolutely. And ultimately are we gaining more than we are giving up by keeping Ben healthy and out of daycare? Yes, I think so. But it’s a stressful and lonely journey so far, and the impact it has on me is different than on Dustin.

I know I’m lucky in many ways – but having to be a SAHM isn’t one of them.

 

What’s The Point Of Being Rich If You’re Always In Dry Dock?

No matter where you are reading this blog from, you know where the lower, middle, upper and uber-upper class areas of your home are. In the Twin Cities, this would be Edina, Eden Prairie, Wayzata, Minnetonka, to name a few.

Dustin and I live less than a mile from Lake Minnetonka but no, we are not wealthy. Our house is 35+ years old and, while it has great bones, the peeling siding and crumbling deck definitely bring down the property value for our neighbors. There always seems to be a community-with-the-community in areas such as this – million dollar homes are mere feet from $200,000 homes inhabited by lucky youngsters who happened to purchase in the buyers market that followed the housing collapse.

I’d think it’s fair to say that most people living in Minnesota aspire to several possessions and property as they grow up – home, water sport toy, “up north” cabin, ice house and snowmobile are all fairly common acquisitions ’round these parts. Dustin would love a jet ski and while I agree that they are a blast, I hope we some day can afford a boat. Nothing fancy, just something that our family and friends can enjoy together.

Just a little ways down the trail is a small marina. There are many of sailboats piled into the woods, the parking lot, and then again in a clearing on the other side of the trail. Marina’s are sad affairs for most of the year – boats stripped down to their skeletons, wrapped in winterized plastic, waiting patiently for summer.

The boats kept here range from large to small, shiny to rusty, but they would all do the trick in getting you out on the water. What strikes me every time I pass this marina is how similar it looks in the summer to the rest of the year. So many boats are left on land. The rest might make it to their slip in the water, but walk by on a gloriously sunny weekend, and most are still bobbing up and down without even a hint of having been enjoyed.

The real kicker? The business men and women, or lawyers, or investment bankers, or any other lucrative profession so popular in these parts have by and large named their boats things like “Dreamer” or “Wahoo” or “Chasing Sun” or “Relaxin”. There are people behind the boats who must want more than what their money has bought them – a free Saturday, a chance to enjoy the spoils of wealth, the elusive concept of relaxation.

So I wonder – what’s the point of being rich, of acquiring the things that make you stand out as rich, if you never leave dry dock?

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Where Did Minnesota Nice Go?

This weekend, while Dustin, Ben and I were enjoying a walk together, we passed a man and a woman. As they grew closer to us the man started laughing. “Now that’s one way to slow a woman down so you can keep up with her, put a cart in front of her!” He laughed and laughed and probably didn’t hear me call him a sexist.

The woman he was with laughed too, but I don’t know if it was out of humor or humiliation.

Dustin was (and still is) completely taken back not only at what this man said, but the fact that he felt the need to say it at all. I am less shocked – some people just have their heads up their ass. Some people love to hear themselves talk. Some people don’t realize it’s 2014 and woman pushing a stroller does a hell of a lot more than shop.

In fact, as Dustin pointed out, he is the shopper in our family, not me.

Where did this guys nerve come from, I wonder – and where did his Minnesota nice go?

Days 108-111: Venturing Out and Diving In

Now that spring has settled over Minnesota we are finally able to venture out a bit more with Ben. This means not only enjoying walks and lots of fresh air, but Ben was able to meet some more of his extended family on Saturday. Of course we still have to be extremely careful – everyone washes hands, no one goes near him that has smoked or even thinks they’re sick, and ideally, no kids/students hold him – but even with the restrictions, it really makes us feel like a “normal” family to be able to introduce Ben to his family.

On Sunday Dustin and I took Ben and both dogs for a nice long walk on one of the Three Rivers Park district trails that connects in Mound. It was sunny and near 60 – not bad considering we got over a foot of snow on Friday!

Today kicked off my first week as a SAHM. I’ve done a lot of reading on “how to be a succesful SAHM” and, although a lot of the information out there seems to come from intense right-wing Christians, I do agree with the basic concept of having a schedule. I never want to waste time and I thrive off of to-do lists, so I’m starting out with a few housekeeping schedules as a jumping off point. While I don’t subscribe to the idea that because I am the stay-at-home-parent all housework falls to me, I do believe it is only fair that I take on more of those responsibilities.

I’ve decided to have 3 goals in the day:

  • Clean something
  • Exercise
  • Write and/or do something to move my writing career forward 

Of course, providing Ben with awesome care goes without saying. :)

I am trying to keep it simple (stupid) and create a schedule that will keep me on track while allowing me not to feel guilty that I didn’t get everything done in one day. I do that to myself all the time – if I clean the bathrooms, I feel lazy for not getting the kitchen, too. So for now, it’s a one room a day cleaning schedule, a long walk outside with Ben, and something that keeps this writing thing moving forward.

At book group on Saturday night I was asked if it has sunk in yet that I am “unemployed”. The answer is it has and it hasn’t. It has in the sense that I was very aware of the fact that Dustin left the house this morning for work and I did not; it hasn’t because I have had a pay-day come and go without a check.

And the no paycheck thing is terrifying (thus the advance writing career goal!) but…today I had Ben on the bed, blankets wedged under his head so he was forced to turn his head against the grain (man is he stubborn!) while I put away laundry. He was watching me, smiling every time I talked to him, and stuffing both hands in his mouth. Seeing him finally use his left arm and get his left hand into his mouth – this is huge progress, and he had a parent there to encourage and witness his accomplishment. So yeah, the no paycheck thing is terrifying, and I still have no idea how we’ll get by, but Ben is thriving – and that balances out the terror in a big way.

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Days 101-107: Emotional Hangover

I think I have an emotional hangover.

Yesterday I resigned from my day job in order to stay at home with Ben.

I’ve known this was coming – Ben’s doctors have warned us against putting him in daycare until he’s a year old (best case scenario). Dustin and I have talked about this decision until we have nothing more to say, and then just for fun we talk about it some more.

Dustin and I have a very different background. My parents were happily married until the day my dad died. When I was born, they were commuting over an hour to and from work (gee, sound familiar?) and leaving me at daycare all day. My mom’s paycheck was going entirely to daycare and commuting costs, so my mom quit her job and stayed home with me full-time until I was about 10 years old.

Dustin’s parents divorced (albeit the most amicable divorce I’ve ever seen) and he was put into daycare. There wasn’t a choice – two suddenly single parents had to work to survive.

My mom has always wished for me that, if I wanted the chance to stay at home, I would have it. This was long before Ben, before I knew anything about premature babies. She has no regrets about the sacrifices my parents made together to allow her to stay home with me. And sure, I LOVED having a stay at home mom. Aside from the fact that we could spend the day at the beach or read books together under a blanket after an afternoon nap, I remember the sense of security of knowing that she was always there. When I went to school I knew she would be at the bus stop. I knew when I got sick she would be home with me.

Dustin’s mom recently shared her very different experience and opinions with us in regards to me quitting my job – you work, and motherhood is filled with nonstop guilt. But you work. You leave your kid alone next to the phone if you have to because working is the only choice.

I find myself falling somewhere in the middle of my mom and mom-in-laws beliefs and life experiences. My mom (and Dustin) are very much part of team “somehow it all just works out” when it comes to the financial side of giving up an income. However, my parents were lacking two very large debts when my mom quit her job – student loans and medical bills. So yes, I wonder how the hell we are going to pull this off, and in that respect, I agree with my mom-in-law. Working would have been my first choice, even if it meant 80% of my take home pay went to daycare.  We will be okay for a little while – this I know for sure – but when that cushion runs out…right now, I don’t have an answer.

The part of me that agrees with my mom says that you do what’s right for your child and your family. You put these things first and force the rest into place. It’s not just that it would be nice to have Ben at home – he needs the one-on-one care. When your doctor says sure, you could put him in daycare, but just know that he WILL get sick and you could very easily end up back in the hospital…well, that’s enough for me to say this is the right decision. It’s not the easiest decision and it’s not one I ever, ever thought I would make, but it’s the right one.

So here we go.

My boss sent out the email about my resignation mid-morning and I spent the rest of the day exchanging goodbyes with some really awesome people. It’s hard to leave a job when you like the people so much. These are people who I’ve worked on Habitat homes with and jumped in frozen lakes for the Polar Plunge; these are people who I’ve had some really great laughs with. I didn’t realize how much I would miss them until I found myself hugging them goodbye.

By far the most touching moment for me yesterday was when a coworker came up to me and said with such conviction that, scary as this is, we are doing the right thing. He had 25 week twins and spent 3 months in NICU and 12 months under house arrest. I can’t even imagine. We had a talk that included actual NICU terminology and a shared understanding that being a NICU parent changes you for life, it changes who you are at your core. To hear him say we were making the right decision gave me a newfound confidence in the face of overwhelming change, anxiety and fear.

There were also several folks yesterday who pointed out to me that I do have my writing and photography to expand upon. I wasn’t expecting that, and the fact that more than one person seemed to think that I have what it takes to supplement our income with those two ventures…maybe they’re right. Maybe this isn’t just a season of being a SAHM, maybe it’s also the opportunity to move those other passions forward.

So much change. So many kind words. So many wonderful people. Such a beautiful baby.

Emotional hangover continues on.