From the very first moments of my pregnancy with Tomas I was surrounded by medical support and opinions. In fact, I knew I was pregnant days before I normally would. Progesterone injections, extra ultrasounds and monitoring, steroid injections just in case at 30 weeks as soon as I started to not feel as well. We had only one goal.
The reason we had this goal was fairly straight forward. I wanted to deliver at our small local hospital and I needed to be 35 weeks to do it. I previously delivered three of the bigger kids between 35-37 weeks (2 at that hospital with my OB) and they were all just fine. Of course the longer the better was always the conversation, but we also knew that much past 37 weeks probably wasn't going to happen.
35 weeks came and went. We had Thanksgiving. I had a check up. I wasn't worried.
But I was so, so tired. I was done being pregnant. I hurt from head to toe. I wanted to have that baby. I knew that it should be longer, but I just wanted to be done.
I shouldn't have gone into labor when I did. I'm fairly certain it's not possible to will yourself into labor.
Yet there I was and I was so relieved. We labored a little, we laughed, and I wasn't worried one little bit. Everything was going to be fine. All thoughts of ideally making it to 37 were gone as I expressed relief that "Hey! At least we made it to 35."
Our happy ending was here!!
Except Tomas wasn't fine. He needed a lot of stimulation to breathe and cry and then I didn't even get to see him. By the time I was out of recovery he was being loaded up to head to Mayo with tubes and wires. Without me.
I got to touch him for three seconds through an incubator and I was so scared. I put on my happy face and one foot in front of the other to be discharged. I did what I had to do because if I stopped to think about it I just knew I would fall apart. I got through that day but it didn't take long once I was with Tomas again to start breaking. Those days were so hard. I can't even really express how hard, although I've tried.
One minute I was feeling like I somehow put him there in wishing not to be pregnant any more. Then the next minute I'm feeling bad for feeling bad when there are other babies who are so much sicker. This wasn't Siena all over again. He was positionally sensitive though and all I wanted to do was hold him, but he had higher oxygen needs when he was being held and I felt like I needed permission. I wanted him to come home but he needed to be off oxygen so I kept making myself put him down. Finally a nurse outright told me that it was better to be held on oxygen than alone without it.
Throughout it all, however, I was sure....absolutely sure....that everything would be fine when we were home and in our own space again. I could parent him the way I wanted and breastfeed on demand and sleep with him and love on him and have a fresh start. All of my other 35-37 week kiddos were fine and he would be too.
In some ways, that is exactly what happened. When we came home, things did get better.
We weaned off formula and then off bottles and then off nipple shields. He wouldn't sleep laying down, or in a bouncy chair, or car seat or sling. But hey, I couldn't blame him it wasn't like I really wanted to put him down anyways, right?
He has always been a spitty baby, but being an experienced mom I just took the "laundry problem" approach. Until I started catching him choking on his own spit up and realized that he alone was accounting for an entire load of laundry or more every single day.
Eventually things got to the point that we had to take turns holding him standing up and walking around to keep him from crying during the day. He got to the point where he was doing this a dozen times an hour or more while he slept. Grimacing and arching and coughing and gagging and then going back to sleep.
Oh and this was after we finally started reflux medicine.
He started having a hard time nursing again. Arching and crying and coming off the breast again and again while he was eating. He was fine with a bottle, but on his bad days he just could not suck hard. At one point we got to the point of eating 8-10 ounces/day from the bottle on top of as much nursing as he wanted so our pediatrician increased him from the introduction dose to a higher dose of reflux meds.
Since then we have seen some small improvements, mainly in his ability to lay on the floor and to sit in his carseat. He has been needing fewer bottles, although he still has bad days where he needs more.
I know that this post will probably make many readers feel like they have a suggestion for what might help but what I mostly just want you to know that my plan is not going according to plan! When I mentioned his reflux on our Facebook page I got quite a bit of unsolicited advice, most of which we were already doing or already tried. I assure you that we have probably tried just about anything you can suggest!
Our list of rules for feeding Tomas is long... He does better if we don't feed him before we put him in the carseat for going places. He does better if he can suck on his pacifier right away as soon as he is done eating (thanks Meghan!) and if we can feed him almost completely upright. He does better if I don't let him nurse in short spurts. We have ruled out latch issues and tongue/lip tie issues. We are working with my diet. We are working with an IBCLC for pumping and supply help and keeping a close eye on his weight. Right now he is averaging 4 ounces/week over his lifetime. Which is basically enough to keep anyone from giving me a hard time about sticking to 100% breast milk, but not particularly wonderful that he has never done more than that. So far we have avoided any choking/aspiration type complications.
Which bring us full circle to my plan. My plan with the pretty wrapped up package and happy ending. I don't mean to sound ungrateful, I really don't. Sometimes if I think about just how much I love this boy I can't help the tears that fall. Yet 35 weeks wasn't enough.
Tomas needed more.
Unlike my other early birds he needed extra help at birth. Unlike my other early birds he has struggled mightily with eating. Unlike my other early birds we are needing to use his adjusted age in order to evaluate his development. How long will that last? (They tell me it will last as long as we need it to- whatever that means!)
And all of this a little fear in my brain- development and health issues. I've done that once before. In fact that child is set to start a long set of evaluations yet again. Can I do two?
And another piece of my brain feels guilt. Guilt that I didn't stay pregnant longer. That I was relieved and excited to be done. Excited for this?
My body doesn't hurt any more, but my head and heart do. I knew that being pregnant again would be hard physically, but I wasn't prepared for this to be so hard to. I remember being anxious about Kylee, but the combination of the NICU and Siena and Tomas. It's just one big hot mental mess! Am I depressed?
Maybe a little.
I don't know, maybe a lot.
I do know that this-to-shall-pass and that one day I will probably look back on how hard it is right now and wonder what was so awful.
But right now, it's just hard. Really hard.