Life By Kristen

Go, and embrace your liberty. And see what wonderful things come of it. – Little Women

5 on Friday: Random Musings of early October

  • At the end of last winter, I finally got rid of my red winter peacoat. It was long overdue. It was a hand me down that I loved, but I replaced the buttons many times and had sewn so many holes shut in the pockets there wasn’t much fabric left! Now I need a new winter coat and probably new winter shoes as my feet grew a bit from pregnancy. High five to me last March for writing in my planner for this month that I needed the new coat. Otherwise, I likely would have forgotten until it was already cold and I would have missed my window of opportunity to buy one in stores (don’t get me started on how you have to buy something you need months before you’ll need it because of the silly retail cycle).

 

  • Excited for the new season of Peaky Blinders which is available on Netflix today. Also The Good Place started its final season last week so hoping it’s a good one. Some time last year we finally upgraded our cable to get a DVR ( always behind the 8 ball with all things tech!) and now with the baby, it’s our favorite thing because we are usually in bed by 830 or can’t watch a show in one sitting lol.

 

  • I set a very minimal reading goal for this year of only 35 books because I had no idea how much time/mental energy I’d have for reading after Gray arrived. I read A LOT in the first 4 months of the year since we spent a lot of weekends at home enjoying our childless life and being lazy, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised how much reading I have been able to do on the Kindle while pumping or during naps. I haven’t touched a physical book in awhile ( minus a few books about babies/parenting), but have one out from library at moment (Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner). Hoping the limits of the library loan period will get me reading. I honestly don’t think I’ll tackle more than one or two books from my own bookshelf this year. I think I probably say this every year and never do much to attack it either, probably because I don’t look at it every day since the built-in bookshelves are in the basement. 

 

  • With the fall temps finally arriving, I’m trying out new recipes and bringing the slow cooker down. Looking forward to trying some new recipes for some of our favorite things like beef stew and chili, and a few new ones too. Q is very good at trying new foods (minus shellfish and chicken) and is more on board with more vegetarian stuff so I find I’m actually looking forward more to cooking, even with a crazy work schedule and baby life.

 

  • I got way behind on podcasts over my maternity leave so have been binging a lot of my old favorites, but also adding new ones to the listening queue. I’m only commuting to work three days a week now so trying to fit more listening in as I work from home and do things around the house! Recent new finds I enjoyed: Constitutional from the Washington Post (it’s a few years old) and Moonrise, also from the Post about the 1960s space race to the moon. 

 

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October!

October is one of the best months of the year- warm days, cool nights, and still time to enjoy the outdoors without sweltering heat. We haven’t spent a lot of time outdoors in the evenings the past few months because of some pretty serious mosquito-related illnesses in our area, so hoping we get a frost in the next few nights that might kill off some of the little buggers.

It’s funny how now with a baby everyone thinks we’re going to engage in all these kid activities all of a sudden, but Gray’s too little to do anything but tag along at the moment! He’s just getting to the age where he’s starting to process things and be curious, but not at the age that Halloween or any of the fall activities like pumpkin or apple picking means anything. My allergies have been pretty fierce and I can’t take any of my normal decongestant/relief stuff because I’m still providing milk for Gray, so our fall outdoor activities might be a bit limited this year, but I’m sure we’ll at least go buy a pumpkin at the farm stand.

We have to figure out holiday plans this month, some travel to see family, and get going on some house projects because our tiny house has become smaller every day with the amount of stuff the baby has. It’s funny how we were very particular in what we asked for in terms of baby gear, but after we brought Gray home from the hospital, our random Amazon purchases and gifts from folks just started to multiply in the house. It’s like a baby showroom!

Here’s wishing you a lovely month filled with fall fun and relaxation!

Friday Finds September 2019

Regular posting coming back- back at work after maternity leave ended a few weeks ago so took me a bit to find my groove! Until then, some fun internet finds!

If you’re in New England, you know fall is the most glorious time because of the changing colors of the leaves ( among other fall-related things). Here’s a brief history of leaf peeping!

A forgotten female in cinema history.

And another lesser known woman of history, and her forgotten book full of historic signatures and personal notes.

Not an article, but a recommendation! As usual, I’m always late to the party when it comes to websites and various online tools that have been around for years. In the slew of baby-related purchases over the past few months, it was completely overwhelming trying to figure out the best products, value, etc. Wirecutter.com has become my new go-to for recommendations. Shout out to my aunt for telling me about it!

 

5 on Friday: Summer Favorites

  1. This summer wasn’t filled with just baby doctor appointments and diaper changes! We did manage to enjoy a bit of the summer. We took lots of walks around our neighborhood and by the water. It was great to get some exercise and stroller walks always put the little guy right to sleep.
  2. After we got Gray into a routine and settled at home, my mother and I decided to take a weekly outing with him in search of some of the best lobster rolls in our area. We didn’t have a bad one in all of our trips. I think we both agreed our favorite was a great seafood restaurant in Bristol, RI- Quitos.
  3. I originally thought my maternity leave would be filled with lots of couch cuddling time to catch up on movies and tv shows I hadn’t seen- HAHA. Even if I didn’t have a busy schedule of medical appointments for Gray, I don’t think I would have sat in front of the TV much anyway. Even on the gross, hot, humid days when we didn’t leave the AC much, I didn’t end up having much of an attention span for a lot of new to me entertainment. I did enjoy: The Boys on Amazon, Stranger Things on Netflix, and catching up on movies like A Star is Born and Bohemian Rhapsody. I did not like the new 90201 reboot.
  4. I actually had time to read! This was probably the most surprising thing of maternity leave but the Kindle made it so easy to read while pumping or when Gray was napping.
  5. Summer veggies are my favorite and I used them in everything: salads, pasta salad, stirfry, and so on. I will be so so sad when I can’t get fresh tomatoes or cucumbers.

NICU Awareness Month

Apparently, September is NICU Awareness Month. Before having a child in the NICU, I had no idea such a month existed ( though should have guessed since every cause/affliction seems to have a month).

I’m in a few Facebook NICU parent groups as a lurker/liker as I found it helpful in the month we spent in the NICU to remind myself that we would get out of there and bring our son home. It’s heartwarming to see all the preemie babies with their before/after shots, especially in the last few weeks as many parents post first day of school photos.

I’ve struggled a bit with being a NICU parent because my child “looked normal.” He was born only 4 weeks early and at a healthy weight and size, despite his traumatic birth and lack of oxygen at the time of birth. There were babies in the NICU that were born at 25 weeks when we were there, another was less than 2 pounds, and others born with medical issues. Gray was perfectly fine inside up until his birth so seeing the struggle of some of the other families made our situation feel less dire– sort of like that saying “if you throw your problems in a pile with everyone else’s, you’d take yours out again.” One day in the NICU when we thought our little guy had a kidney infection, I was pretty upset and crying. I stepped out of the room with my mom to go eat breakfast in the family room ( no food is allowed in the baby’s room) and there were 2 mothers in there whose babies were born with some pretty serious medical issues– was sort of the perspective I needed to count my blessings. There were families in our area of the NICU that had been there over 120 days– we spent exactly 30. It was heartbreaking and difficult, but I can’t imagine what it would have been like if things had been much different.

When Gray was born, there was a lot of unknown about his prognosis. With the lack of oxygen at birth, he had to be resuscitated and we didn’t know what damage had been done to his body and systems. He was cooled for 72 hours below normal body temperature to preserve his vital organs and functions- we basically had to wait until those 72 hours were over and they slowly warmed him over 48 hours to know if he would be okay or not. One (horrible) doctor told us he might be brain dead ( it was clear by the end of his birthday that he was not that because he was moving his limbs and responding to stimuli). Babies who come off the cooling treatment often have complications with other body functions and while Gray is doing spectacular for a 3 month old baby, we’re hyper vigilant about making sure he stays on track with all the developmental milestones. We know he is a miracle and are thankful for every single moment with him.

What surprised me the most about the NICU was how many people in my universe had babies spend time there- more than I realized. You often only hear about folks with scary medical conditions or babies born very early– but the NICU is also for full-term babies who have issues of various kinds- breathing issues, heart murmurs, digestive issues and so on. It gave me a lot of hope and strength to know that we’d get through it because lots of people I knew did it before me. It didn’t always help when Gray was struggling to eat or we couldn’t figure out why he wasn’t gaining weight, but we always knew in the back of our mind we’d bring him home.

Thoughts on Maternity Leave

Our little guy is 3 months old today! It’s hard to believe how much he’s grown and overcome, especially considering this time 3 months ago we didn’t know if he’d live through the day or not. We are thankful every single moment for him- even when he’s crying!

My maternity leave ended up being longer than anticipated since my son arrived 4 weeks early. I am lucky to work in a state that provides some paid maternity leave so between sick time and temporary disability/caregiver leave, my leave will clock in at 16 weeks. I go back to work in September so I still have a few more weeks to soak up cuddles and smiles. I am incredibly fortunate that even when I return to work, I will be working a mostly part-time schedule in the office and working from home on other days. We’re also beyond grateful that my mother is willing and able to care for our little guy in our home, saving us daycare costs and letting Gray’s immune system get stronger before he’s out with other babies.

I took my son to meet my coworkers last week and one of them ( a childless man) asked me the other day if my maternity leave was restful, to which of course, I laughed. Sure there were days when we didn’t leave the house and I went from pajamas to lounge clothes to pajamas, but each day of caring for a tiny human with medical issues is definitely not restful. He’s a great baby and so much of his early month of life was filled with tears and stress that even his most crazy crying fit didn’t seem all that bad. But he’s a little human learning something new every single day– I can’t even wrap my head around that or not being able to verbalize beyond crying if something itches or is uncomfortable. All that “normal” baby stuff topped with a brain and body that is healing from trauma is a lot for anyone, let alone a tiny human!

My leave has been filled with doctor’s appointments and visiting nurses which has been a bit of blessing because so many people have been keeping their eyes on him. It should be mandatory that every new mother gets a visit or two from a nurse, especially in those first few weeks you’re home and have no clue what to do. We went through a baby boot camp crash course in the NICU in baby care, getting Gray on a schedule, and so on. I don’t know how people do this without a partner, family, or friends around. It really takes a huge village to support.

I cannot imagine Gray would have had the care he received if we didn’t have amazing private insurance – with the exception of my care and a few of his x-rays, everything has been covered because we met our deductible pretty quickly. If we had to pay out of pocket, Gray’s treatments alone are already above $25,000. it makes me sick to my stomach to think a little baby would get transferred to a lesser facility or be denied care because of insurance or a parent’s inability to pay out of pocket.

One thing I will say about maternity leave is that it didn’t provide me the clarity about life and career that I thought it would. Yes, being away from work so abruptly and taking care of my new human definitely showed us what our values are and that our current jobs are just part of the routine at this point. But in terms of getting a feeling that tells me what  “I want to be this when I grow up,” I think the only thing I’ve learned is family and health are all that really matters– they are non-negotiable to me now. Finding something that respects and understand that– and values it too– are going to be most important, no matter what the job title is. I don’t want long hours, weekends, or something that’s not going to allow me to be at a doctor’s appointment, or in the future, a school play. So for now, until we know more about Gray’s health now and in future, I’ll likely be staying put in my current role. It doesn’t feel like I’m giving up on doing what I want for my life, but it does feel like I’m putting my son and our family first which is ultimately the right thing for us all at this moment.

Alive & Still Here

Reporting live from Babyville, the mayor of which is an adorable almost 11 week old boy who rules the roost and has captured our hearts, despite his endless hunger and crying for more milk!

I’m still alive and still here even though this space has been silent for over a month. I’ve been in an endless cycle of bottle washing, formula mixing, breast pumping, diaper changing, etc. Of course there have been lots of snuggles, smiles, and new cooing sounds every day too. And a bunch of medical appointments, labwork, and scheduling for baby too.

I have just over a month to go on my maternity leave- I’m incredibly grateful I was able to take the entire summer off, plus the extra time from when Gray decided to arrive early. Now that he’s gaining weight and the doctor’s visits are getting less and less, we are venturing out more and that’s been a huge help for keeping me sane. I’m blessed with a partner who believes in sharing the parenting duties as much as he can and family and friends that are supporting me from near and far. Overall, minus the never ending cycle of baby care routine and worrying about his medical conditions and everything associated with it, I’m handling this stay at home mom thing fairly well. I’m not sure it’s for me long term, but my opinion on that may change when I go back to work in September ( and even then, I’ll be pretty much part time).

Speaking of work, I thought that this time off would provide me with some much needed clarity about what I want to be doing for work. It has to a certain extent and in other ways, I still have no clue. I know I want to be in a position that allows me to focus on my son and family so the position I have right now is right for our family at this time, especially as we still have some question marks about Gray’s health.

Even though we’ve into a good groove with the little guy, every day looks a little different because of his various appointments so it;s been hard for me to carve out time for myself for anything beyond social media and reading some breezy books on Kindle. I’m committed to writing here, even if only sporadically! And a quick note– you won’t see any photos of my son on this space because his father and I have made an active decision to limit what we’re putting out in the world about him, but if you’re so inclined, Gray will sporadically appear over on my Instagram, so feel free to send me a friend request there!

Hope your summer is full of relaxation and fun!

Post NICU Life

Thank you all from far and wide for the good wishes and support on the arrival of Gray and the month-long stay in the NICU. He was discharged this past Thursday so we’ve been home as a family adjusting to each other and our new schedule. It’s been a roller coaster of emotions from joy to tiredness and frustration– for all of us! Even though he’s a month old, it’s like bringing a complete newborn home and trying to figure out which end is up. The amount of random Amazon purchases for baby that we’ve made in the last few days probably speaks to our often cluelessness about what to do with a new baby.

Some day I’ll have the emotional bandwidth to write Gray’s birth story, if only for us as a family to remember the journey we went through as a family. The month-long saga is not something I’d wish on anyone– leaving the hospital every day without your baby to come home to a house with baby things everywhere is difficult in ways I don’t think I have the words to describe. And yet, I have such an intense level of gratitude for the month that we were there– the care Gray received allowed him to bounce back from what could have been a very different outcome in our life. NICU nurses are true angels on earth not only in what they do for the babies they care for, but for how they support and teach the families- and they do it for more than just Mom and Dad. As we’ve entered into the new parent sleepy phase with midnight and 3AM feedings, I even had a moment of missing the NICU because of the around the clock care that allowed us to sleep every night and sleep in a few weekend mornings too.

Having a baby in the NICU is incredibly difficult in the postpartum weeks- not just the fact that you’re recovering from birth, but missing out on a lot of the early bonding which is so important. Gray was born on a Monday, but I wasn’t able to hold him until late Friday of the same week. And yet that difficulty is also paired with gratitude for having time and space to heal from emergency surgery. There were definitely more than a few tough moments of getting in the car, needing help showering, etc. where I was relieved my baby was safe at hospital while I was healing at home. A million high fives to Moms who have a C-section and then come home with baby 3-4 days later– you are serious real-life super heroes.

Gray’s birth has re-ignited my faith in the power of prayer, love, and things bigger than us. It affirmed my belief in guardian angels, being in the right place at the right time, and counting blessings big and small. It’s opened an emotional part of myself that I imagine happens with many mothers regardless of how their child came into the world. It reminded me that family and true friends who are family rise to the occasion when a crisis happens. Amid the crazy bad news of the world, it reminded me how good and kind people are, even complete strangers who Gray and I will never meet who prayed for our family and his health/recovery.

They say a baby changes everything, but I think Baby Gray has been more of an inspiration than his little 36 day old self can realize.

 

A Quick Update

A quick life update!

Life threw us a huge curveball on Monday, May 20th when our son, Gray, decided to enter the world four weeks early. His birth was fast, furious, and traumatic for both of us, but at least for me I was out of the hospital four days later. Gray is still in the NICU and will be for the foreseeable future, although his dad and I are about ready to steal him away to go home ( is it stealing if it’s your baby?) We’re head over heels in love with the blue-eyes, dark haired little boy who is amazing us every moment at the strides he’s made in his 15 days of life ( now if he could only get the eating/feeding thing down!)

In any case, I’m now in another club no one wants to be in– a NICU mother. It’s heartbreaking, stressful, overwhelming, boring, tiring, and about a million other things in between. The wins are amazing, the setbacks are heartbreaking, and we’ve only been there 15 days. Today I overheard docs talking about a baby who has been there 120 days. l literally cannot imagine because I’m about to lose my mind.

This is all to say  it might be quiet around these parts for awhile. It’s funny because in between Gray’s feedings, meeting with OT, docs, and other happenings, the day goes by quickly and slow all at the same time. Q and I are making it through- he dealt with the brunt of the scary stuff for the first 2 weeks of Gray’s life while I was healing from an emergency c-section that’s left me quite sore. He had to go back to work this week and is trying to spend the nights at NICU with our little guy. As they say, the days are long, but the years are short.

Some day, when I’m off this emotional roller coaster, I’ll write up his birth story, if for no other reason than it might help me put together the timeline of what happened– from the time I called the hospital that my water broke, to the time Gray was born was only about 2.5 hours so it was a whirlwind that I’m still not sure I completely understand ( and not sure I want to quite yet).

It’ll be quiet over here for bit until we get Gray home and get our new life together– not sure how long that’ll be, so wishing you all a lovely June and start of summer!

Friday Finds May 2019

Knitting as a World War II spy tool– so cool!

A woman recorded over 30 years of TV history and her collection of Betamax and VHS tapes are now being digitized.

A history of cribs and other contraptions to get babies to sleep over the years— those window cribs are crazy!

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