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Monday, September 19, 2011

What We Love: NICU Edition

As a new(ish) mom, I'm forever looking for product recommendations and things that other moms swear by. The baby-product market is one that is absolutely saturated and can be tough to navigate sometimes, so items that have the stamp of approval from moms I trust are usually the ones I will go for.

So I figured that since I love to know what other moms are using, certainly there are moms (a mom? Anyone? Beuller?) that would want to know what I'm using! So stay tuned, this is just the first in a line of posts about What We Love :)

When I was in the midst of our NICU journey especially, I would stay up all hours of the night, scouring the internet for tips and tricks from "been there, done that" moms to make our stay as easy as possible. In a journey that is about as easy as catching a pig slathered in Vaseline, any little bit helps!

Here are the things that I found useful throughout our 3 and a half month NICU stay:

-The Medela Pump In Style Advanced breastpump
There is a reason I put this first. I called this thing my third child. I slept next to it, I carried with me at home from room to room, I never left the house without it. I was attached to this thing 24/7 while my babies were in the hospital. The indisputable fact is that premature babies need breastmilk. Breast is best for any baby but preemie babies, with their extremely fragile immune systems, NEED the antibodies found only in breastmilk. I could write a whole post on the importance of pumping for your preemie and my whole story, but I'll save that for another day. What I will say now is that when you are pumping full-time, only the best will do. The PISA is pricey, but it is SO worth it (and was the only one recommended by my IBCLC Lactation Consultant).

-Gallon-sized Ziplock bags
This might seem like a weird addition to the list, but we used these for EVERYTHING. I would put my clean pump parts in one to tote to the NICU, and throw another in my pump bag to keep the dirty parts separate. The hospital gave me "lovey squares," which were just little knit squares that I would sleep with so the babies would have my scent with them, and I would wash them, take them straight from the dryer and stick them in my bra, and then straight from my bra to a Ziplock, so that it wasn't exposed to any more germs than it needed to be. Same with their outfits when they were able to wear clothes: straight from the dryer and into a Ziplock. The NICU made me into a huge germaphobe, yall.

-A good water bottle
If you are pumping/breastfeeding, you need to be drinking a LOT of water. I spent hours at a time in the NICU, so it was nice to have a bottle I could throw in my pump bag, not worry about it leaking, and could refill. The one I have (that's pictured here) is a Tupperware Intak, which was a gift from a friend and I really like it.

-Good hand cream
My nails split. My skin peeled. I had to scrub every time I went into the NICU (4-5 times a day) plus every time I went from one baby to the other. It KILLED my hands. Our second week there I bought this Burt's Bees hand cream in the hospitalgift shop and I've loved it since the first time I used it. I don't think my hands will ever recover, but this stuff really made a difference.

-Preemie-friendly clothes
There are lots of clothes that come in preemie sizes (Carters and the Babies R Us were brands that fit us well), but in the NICU you also have to accommodate for medical equipment. The babies had cannulas on their faces that made over-the-head things (like onesies) hard to get on and off, and wire leads on their chests, bellies and feet that made zip-up outfits unsafe because the wires ended up coming out near their necks. What we found to be our best bet were one-piece snap-front sleepers. The long sleeves and pants kept them warm in the chilly hospital, we could put them on without going over their heads, and the gaps between the snaps let the wires hang out below their bellies and not up near their necks. We actually got that cute monkey outfit as a gift from another friend - in blue AND pink!
*And a word to the wise - check with your NICU about their clothing policies. It varies from hospital to hospital, but we weren't allowed to put clothes on the babies until they were out of isolattes AND warmer beds, and into open-air cribs. For us, that was about 2 months in when they weighed about 4 pounds.

-Hospital photos
Our NICU had a contract with the Bella Baby company, and a photographer came once a week to take professional pictures of the babies while they were in the hospital. . You might think at first that you don't want to remember these times because they're hard and scary, but I cannot put into words how much I cherish these pictures. They are totally a testament to how far we've come, and I might be the only one but I think even the tiny, sad ones are beautiful. If your hospital has a contract with a company, TAKE ADVANTAGE OF IT. If not, go to http://www.picturesofhopefoundation.org/ to find a photographer in your area that will provide the same service. I promise, you will not regret it!

So that's it, those are the things that helped us through our NICU stay. Fellow NICU mommies, is there anything you'd like to add? I'd love to hear it in the comments!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

In & Out

On Friday, the babies were 25 weeks old.

This officially means that the babies have been "out" longer than they were "in".

And yall... that is so crazy to me. The whole last year has been such a whirlwind, sometimes I stop and look around and can hardly believe that this is my life. It just seems so strange, things like this - sad things, hard things, miracle things - they happen to other people, they happen to friends of friends or someone your aunt works with. They don't happen to you. And yet here I am, with babies who are getting so big and who are doing so well and who are not even six months old and yet have been here longer than I was pregnant with them.

I still marvel at just how blessed I am.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11, as a Mother

The school I taught at does this really lovely 9/11 remembrance ceremony every year. As teachers, we were expected to spend the day discussing, teaching, remembering with our students.

I will never forget my first year, trying to plan lessons for that September day. My students that year were babies that had been born in 2003 and 2004, years after the attacks had happened. I remember staring at my blank lesson plan book, totally stuck. How do you explain an event that changed a child's life before their life had even begun?

And today, I sit here with my own babies - babies born a whole decade after the tradgedy that changed our nation - and I revisit those very same feelings, only magnified through the heart of a mother. I know that one day, my babies will learn about what happened on September 11 of 2001. I know that they will have questions.

How do you gently explain a hatred so big to a person so little?

How do you express the magnitude of an entire nation, 300 MILLION people, mourning together?

What do I tell them? I was only 15 when it happened, a freshman in Coach Hauck's US History class. I couldn't begin to comprehend what it meant. At 25, I'm still not sure that I fully understand.

I have no idea what I will say when the time comes. There are books and websites and videos that are geared towards teaching children, but I don't know what, if any of it, I will use. But I do hope that I can approach the subject with delicate words and a grace that will make them understand but not afraid. I hope they can take away the lesson that hate will never win. I hope that they gain an immense appreciation for the men and women who serve our country. I hope that I can teach them to say "thank you" to those in Army fatigues, to stand up straight when the National Anthem is played, to place their hands on their hearts when they say the Pledge and, most importantly, to understand why we do these things.

I want them to know that not only are they lucky to be alive, but that they are lucky to be American.

We will always remember.