Monday, March 31, 2014

It's Official: Gwyneth Paltrow and I Have Nothing In Common

While I love to make fun of Gwyneth Paltrow as much as the next person, I wasn't totally on board the Gwyneth hate-train. Sure, I would jump on for a quick trip, but if I was really being honest, I thought she was cool, smart, beautiful, fit, etc. I don't subscribe to Goop (her lifestyle website), but I peruse it occasionally. A lot of people would get angry that she would suggest that people buy outlandishly expensive things, but I didn't. I figured her target audience was for people who had millions to spare, like herself. So why wouldn't she suggest that they buy crazy expensive sh*t or detail the best place to get a bikini wax in Paris? That's her life. If we are being even more completely honest, I had just about come around to the name Apple. I sort of get it - it's sweet, wholesome, fresh. Not too far off from Clementine. Plus, Chris Martin was the one who suggested it apparently, and he seems like a good guy (and who doesn't love Coldplay).

Gwyneth took the fashion world by storm at the Oscars two years ago by wearing a cape.
When Gwyneth and Chris decided to "consciously uncouple" last week, I was sad for them. I totally rolled my eyes at the conscious uncouple crap, but not really at Gwyneth. More at the dumb doctors that came up with the term and wrote the bogus article about how marriage is no longer really feasible because we all live too damn long (the article was added to the page where Gwyneth announced the separation on Goop). Excuse me while my eyes roll literally right out of my head. I think that is complete bullshit. I think marriage is hard no matter how you cut it, but it is also extremely rewarding. In my mind, I have made a commitment, and I will see it through. I actually look forward to seeing Dan get old, wrinkly, and gray. He's way too good-looking as it is! That all being said, I realize that divorce is what works for some people, and I don't hold myself out as better than them. But let's not blame it on our lengthened life spans. What a cop-out. However, I wasn't "hating" on Gwyneth even at that point. I was more of the feeling of: "Bless her heart. She is trying to cope with the fact that she is going through a divorce and this is the best way she can do it. I don't agree with her views, but whatever helps her get through it."

Then, Dan forwarded me this article (because he enjoys seeing me seethe): http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/people/2014/03/28/gwyneth-paltrow-working-mom-taking-break/6999685/

In it, for reasons I cannot fathom, Gwyneth compares her job to that of a working mom with a "9 to 5." Here is an excerpt:

"I think it's different when you have an office job, because it's routine and, you know, you can do all the stuff in the morning and then you come home in the evening," said the polarizing Paltrow. "When you're shooting a movie, they're like, 'We need you to go to Wisconsin for two weeks,' and then you work 14 hours a day and that part of it is very difficult. I think to have a regular job and be a mom is not as, of course there are challenges, but it's not like being on set."

Where do I start? I think the big mistake that Gywneth made was to believe that she knows anything about what it is like to have a "regular" job. She has never had one, and from what I know of her family, she has never been around someone who has had a "regular" job. Therefore, she wouldn't know about the "challenges" and how they compare to the "challenges" of being "on set."

I get what she is saying to a certain extent. That with an "office" job, there is a regular schedule to work around, but with an acting job for a movie, you have to be on location for long hours. But that is really the only comparison she is making. And then based on that comparison, she makes a large generalization that having a regular job as a mom is not as challenging as being an actor on set. She fails to take into consideration a multitude of other factors. For instance, the flexibility of her work (she gets to decide what roles and how many she chooses), the length of her projects (two weeks is a short amount of time), her support system (I am guessing here, but she probably has the means to make sure everything at home is completely taken care of while she is at location). Did she take into consideration the mom who has a routine office job, but has to take the occasional business trip (pretty common)?

I am not trying to argue that my situation as a working mom is more challenging than Gwyneth Paltrow's life as a working mom (although just writing that sentence makes me laugh). What I want to highlight is that she should not even being comparing her life to mine and then labeling one as more challenging. That is the heart of the whole "mommy wars," people who make judgments and generalizations about other moms' lives and then attempt to compare them to their own. Just don't do it. I talked about this to some extent here. What really puts salt in the wound as far as Gwyneth's comment is that she clearly lives a very fortunate, luxurious life, and she always has. I believe I live a fortunate life as well, but I didn't like attend Jay-Z and Beyoncé's wedding or anything. I also don't know *anything* about flax oil (embarrassingly), and I have never done a juice cleanse (just ask my midsection). My point is, it is hard to listen to someone in that position dismiss the daily grind.

So, I guess I can't like Gwyneth Paltrow anymore. Ugh! Who am I kidding? I am totally going to check out Goop next week and maybe embark on my first juice cleanse. Gywnnie's skin is so luminescent! Maybe if I do a juice cleanse, mine can be too!!!

Friday, March 28, 2014

What's for Dinner?

"So...uh...what do you want to have for dinner tonight?" I usually ask this question to Dan everyday.  I am not sure why I ask him, because I either get crickets or the suggestion that we order pizza or pick up Chick Fil A. Which are not terrible suggestions at all, but it's not like Dan is going to make me think of a magically healthy and easy dinner meal that we have all of the ingredients for at home. He is not a wizard! He cannot make things magically appear! (But wouldn't that be awesome? Not gonna lie, I think I would waste this super power mostly on food.)

I have realized that I am going to have to do some modicum of planning ahead to accomplish this dinner thing. Recently, I ask friends on Facebook for their go-to easy weekday meal. Two weekends ago, I used this to help me make a dinner plan for the week. I ended up not following it exactly, but it did help a ton. It was a lot of work on the front end (because I also made up a grocery list to go with), but I figured I could reuse it in the future. Here was the plan:

Monday – Quiche with Greens
Tuesday – Spaghetti and Meatballs with Crusty Bread
Wednesday - Anna’s Hearty TJ Stew with Crusty Bread
Thursday – Pizza Thursday!
Friday – Veggie Burgers with Sweet Potato Fries and Peas
Saturday - Fish Soft Tacos (optional)
Sunday – Erin’s Chicken Parm with Green Beans

Preparation:
Sunday before: Make quiche, let cool, and refrigerate.
Monday evening: Reheat quiche at 325 for 20 mins. Toss greens with lemon, olive oil, salt & pepper.
Tuesday morning: Put frozen meatballs and marinara in crockpot before work. Low for 8 or 10 hrs.
Tuesday evening: Cook pasta. Serve with the meatballs and sauce.
Wednesday mid-morning: Put soup, beans & pilaf for stew in crockpot. Cook on low for 8 hrs.
Wednesday evening: Toast bread in oven.
Thursday: Order pizza. Open door for pizza guy.
Friday evening: Cook sweet potato fries in oven; microwave veggie burgers and peas.
Saturday: Cook fish in taco seasoning. Set out toppings (shredded lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, cheese).
Saturday evening: Put frozen chicken breast in fridge to defrost.
Sunday late afternoon: pan fry chicken, assemble dish, cook. Steam green beans.

Monday went according to plan (and Dan was a surprising fan of the salad). However, I didn't get around to putting the meatballs and marinara in the crockpot Tuesday morning. I didn't feel great, and the idea of dealing with marinara grossed me out. So Tuesday, I think we had chicken nuggets, sweet potato fries, and peas. This is a super easy dinner, because I basically just have to put the nuggets and fries in the oven, and then microwave the peas. On Wednesday, we had the spaghetti and meatballs. Thursday, we ended up not getting pizza, because we had so many leftover meatballs (note for the future, two packages is too much!). Friday evening, things were a little off, because we ended up having to take Ben to urgent care during dinner time (I talked about that here). So Dan just got Chick Fil A for us on the way home, and Ben had a quick meal of even more leftover meatballs and some green beans.

I put Saturday's meal as "optional," because sometimes we go out for dinner on the weekends. I had forgotten when making the plan that we had actually planned to have dinner with friends that night. However, I had to cancel those plans for a couple of reasons (Dan had a fantasy draft (I didn't check with him beforehand) and Ben was sick). On Saturday evening, we ended up getting takeout with Dan's parents who came for a visit. On Sunday, I didn't feel like cooking the chicken parm, and we had tacos instead (but ground turkey, not fish).

Even though I deviated from the plan EVERY day (except for Monday), it was still really helpful just to have dinner ideas in my head and the groceries to accomplish them in my pantry. This week, I didn't make a plan, but I still had ideas in my head. By the way, I made Anna's Hearty TJ Stew this week (put it in the crockpot on my work from home day), and it was so easy, good, and healthy (I used the butternut squash TH boxed soup). Really checked all of the boxes.

Here are a few of the dinner ideas from my friends:
  • Breakfast for Dinner
  • Grilled Cheese with Ham and Tomato Soup
  • Tacos (fish or ground turkey/chicken/beef)
  • Spaghetti with Meatballs (put frozen meatballs and sauce in crockpot before work).
  • Quiche (two variations of this): Suggestion #1: Eggs or eggbeaters mixed with any creamy salad dressing. Pour into a frozen pie crust, add any kind of veggies or deli meats or whatever you want. Bake at 350 until it's set. Takes about 30 min or so. Suggestion #2: Crustless, just spray a pie pan with Pam then 4 eggs, 1 cup of dairy plus veggies and BACON.
  • Amanda's Café Rio Chicken: Put the following in the crockpot: 2 lbs chicken breast  (I usually use a little less- 3 breasts whatever that weighs) I just throw them in there, no trimming etc.; 1/2 a small bottle of zesty italian dressing; 1/2 tbsp. minced garlic  ( I put less b/c I don't like garlic, although you can't taste it); 1 pkt ranch dressing mix, mixed with 1/2 cup of water; 1/2 tbsp. chili powder; 1/2 tbsp. ground cumin. Cook on low for 5 hours or whatever your low setting is. I think mine is 6 or 8. It smells really good and the chicken shreds with a fork! We put it in flour tortillas then put some of the juice from cooking on top. Its great over a salad or making nachos with tortilla chips and cheese!
  • Anna's TJ Hearty Stew: 1 box Trader Joe's soup (she likes tomato and roasted red pepper), 1 can white beans, and 1 bag frozen superfood pilaf (quinoa, sweet potato and kale).  Chuck in the pot or slow cooker. Put it in the crockpot in the afternoon (so it gets 3 or 8 hours), or do it for an hour on the stovetop.
  • Stu's Stuffed Tomatoes: Mix equal parts pork sausage filling and ground turkey/chicken. Add one egg per pound. Mix and season with parsley, coriander, salt, and pepper. This can be kept refrigerated for 1-2 days. Now stuff your choice of vegetables. Use big tomatoes and green peppers (four pronged bottoms -- not three). You can also add zucchini and/or eggplants. I preferred eggplant. Cut tops off tomatoes and cut green peppers in half from top to bottom. Scoop out the insides of tomatoes and green peppers, sprinkle with salt, fill with meat. Do the same for any other veg. Replace tops of tomatoes (hats). Put into a pan. Drizzle olive oil on top. Optional: toss vegetable innards with some olive oil, salt, and pepper. Scatter in dish around stuffed veg. Bake uncovered at 400 for 45-60 minutes. Serve with rice and optional toppings. Cover leftovers and it will still be good for a day or two (microwave covered on medium for about 3 min).
  • Erin's Chicken Parm: Preheat the oven to 375. In a shallow bowl (large enough to dredge the cutlets), mix together Italian seasoned breadcrumbs, salt, and pepper. In separate shallow bowl, whisk together an egg or two. Dredge boneless, skinless chicken breast (Use pretty thin chicken pieces. Usually cut them in half length-wise) in the egg, allowing excess to drip off, then dredge chicken in breadcrumbs and set aside. Heat olive oil in a pan over medium to medium high heat (cover bottom of pain w/about 1/4" of oil). Once the oil it hot enough that it sizzles when you drop something in it, cook each side of the chicken until it's golden brown. Don't worry about cooking the chicken all the way through- place on paper towel covered plate to absorb the excess oil. Once the chicken is all cooked, cover the bottom of a baking pan with a thin layer of sauce . Put the chicken into the pan and then just cover with however much sauce you'd like (I completely cover the chicken) and then a layer of shredded mozzarella (or cheese substitute). Cover w/foil and bake it for 25 or 30 minutes. If I'm not serving it right away I let it cool and put it in the fridge still covered with foil. Then when I'm ready to cook it I just put it back in at 350 degrees and cook it until it's hot- usually about half an hour- you can tell by just seeing if the middle is hot.
  • Ruby's Corn Chowder- Two cans of creamed corn, two chopped potatoes, some chicken broth - boil for a while until the potatoes are cooked. Then I fired some chopped onion, tomato and bacon together, drained, and dumped in.  
  • Pork Tenderloins
  • Beefy Mac, Hamburger Helper, Tuna Casserole

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Formula to Milk

Dan and Ben in the snow last week. Yes, that is a plastic bag I have wrapped around Ben's foot.
He's one! He doesn't have snow boots! We are trashy!
Long time, no talk! Sorry for the delay folks. I would make the usual excuses, but ya'll have heard them all before. :) One thing I do want to mention is that Ben is just now coming out of another illness! He was spiking a high fever late Friday afternoon (daycare called), and I noticed a weird rash when I got him home. By that time, the pediatrician's office was closed. Before I saw the rash, I was just planning on taking him to the clinic hours they have on Saturday mornings. However, the rash really scared me (as did google). So I rushed him to a local urgent care/ER. The good news was that they didn't think the rash was anything serious. He did have an ear infection and some nasty virus.

His fever was up and down all weekend, but since he didn't have a fever most of Sunday and had a great night Sunday night, he was back at daycare yesterday. He is doing well now, but still does not have his appetite back. He won't starve himself, right? Right?!?!? This is his fourth or fifth ear infection event, so I have set up an appointment with an ENT. Tubes, here we come?

On a separate note, a week after he turned one, we started transitioning from formula to milk. I was a little confused about how to do this, along with transitioning away from the bottle. Ben hits the bottle hard, especially when he has had a long day. Our pediatrician said to just start giving him milk in a sippy. He also suggested putting water in his bottle to make him less interested in it. Finally, he said that he really only needs about 15 oz. of milk a day, but not to worry if he even gets less than that, just to give him some yogurt. My good friend (I mention her a lot here, she is a mother of three and a fancy heart nurse for babies) said that she transitioned to milk first, and then focused on transitioning to sippys.

So that weekend, I gave Ben straight up milk in a sippy cup, and he made such a repulsive face that Dan and I were sure the milk was sour. It was not. So after that, I starting mixing formula and milk. I started with half/half. Then 75% milk. Right now, we are right about to be all milk. I think I will start trying to transition to sippy cups this weekend. Our transition has been SLOW. I do have a deadline - at daycare they have to be bottle free by the time they move into the toddler room which is at 16 months. They also have to be pacifier free. YIKES. We are going to start working on that soon too!

A friend of mine who has a son that was born on the same day as Ben (I talked about her here) said this about her little boy's transition:

*Joseph gets a 6oz bottle when he first gets up at around 6am.
*He then gets a sippy cup with milk and a sippy cup with water any time he is in the high chair. I found he would drink milk from sippy cup with straw in the beginning. Now he will also use regular one, but drinks more with the straw.
*Then he gets another 6oz bottle before bed at 7. 
He used to get a bottle at around 9,1, and 4. Now I give him a snack or meal and the sippy cup. It seems to be working and he is taking straight milk. The first two times I tried it he drank less, but after that I don't think he even realized the difference.  
I tried warming up the milk and it didn't make a difference. I tried straight up milk for the first time with his morning bottle. He wakes up hungry so I thought he wouldn't be as fussy.  That seemed to work.
 
At daycare, Ben is pretty much on the same schedule as Joseph. At home on the weekends, he normally has one less bottle. So I am thinking about just giving him a morning and night bottle this weekend, and no during the day bottles (replaced with sippy cups of milk at snack and meal time). I'll let you know how it goes! (by the way, Ben also rejected the exact milk/formula combo that was in his bottle when I put it in a sippy cup for some inexplicable reason. I should note though that he started drinking water from a sippy cup months ago with no problem. So it makes no sense).
 
After we have somewhat mastered the bottle situation, I am think about going cold turkey with the pacis....but I can't get over how cruel it all seems. When he was born, I was constantly shoving a paci in his face, and when I started going to work, I trained him to take a bottle. Now that he is actually very on board with both of these things, I am going to rip them away! It seems unfair. Poor guy.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Ben's Birth Story

Flash forward one year to Ben's first birthday!
I had been pregnant FOREVER it seemed. My due date was February 21st, but I was still chugging along with no real indication that Ben was coming anytime soon when that date came. I wasn't too concerned, but I had to have that talk with the doctors when you decide when you will induce if it doesn't happen on its own by a certain point. Of course, I read a lot about it, and I was very worried about the negative effects of inducing, of starting out on the "intervention" train at the very beginning. By that point in my pregnancy, I had decided that I would most likely have an epidural, but my plan was to just go along with it and try to be able to move as much as possible, etc., and just play it by ear. I knew that I didn't want to have any opiates (or anything along those lines).

I had a birth plan and everything, but I was really mostly concerned with the newborn procedures (i.e. the Hep B shot, the Vit. K shot, the eye ointment, and cord cutting). I really wanted to be able to hold Ben and attempt to breastfeed before any of those things took place (besides maybe the cord cutting).  I was told I could delay most of it until after the first cuddle, so I was happy about that.

My doctors and I decided that we would induce on March 1st (a Friday) if I didn't go into labor on my own by then. I researched induction, and the camps were fairly split. Some said that your body knows best and no one stays pregnant forever, don't induce! Others said that after a while, the placenta isn't great anymore and there is not enough room in there, induce after 41 weeks! I decided the best thing to do was to be well-informed, but to trust my doctors. When I knew it was likely I was going to be induced, I altered my birth plan. It was basically the shortest birth plan ever, because I didn't really have much control over anything anymore when it came to the actual laboring process.

The night before my induction date, I went to the hospital for a prostaglandin treatment. It was pretty easy, and I was home before I knew it. I was scheduled to begin my induction at 7am. When I got there, they took me right back to a delivery room where I began all of the pre-stuff. Outstanding paperwork (I had pre-checked in, but there are still some forms to fill out), got my IV in, etc. I was assigned the most lovely nurse. She was so sweet and reassuring. We got to the point where she was about to start my Pitocin drip, but I asked her not to do it until I was able to speak with my doctor. He came in and talked to me about starting me on the Pitocin and how it would progress. Then, a hour or so later, my other doctor came in and broke my water. (I went to a practice of three doctors. The one on duty during my labor was busy birthing a baby at that moment, so another doctor from the practice that I was very familiar with came in to break my water. It was nice to see her.).

Then it wasn't very exciting for the next few hours. My doctor regularly checked in on me. I basically didn't feel anything for a while. Then, I started getting mildly uncomfortable at each contraction. I have a very clear memory of my nurse telling me that I had a high pain threshold. I don't really, so I was pretty proud of that. I think she was just trying to give me confidence. Then it snowballed, and I was in so much pain at each contraction that I didn't know how I was going to make it. This was in the early afternoon, basically right during lunch time. I remember this because my nurse was on her lunch break, and I felt bad because I told her that I didn't think I would want my epidural until she got back. But then, the pain got to be too much, but I was attached to her emotionally already, and I really wanted her to be with me when I got it. I couldn't do anything to mitigate the pain, like move around or stretch, because I had to be monitored constantly because I was on Pitocin. My doctor asked me if I wanted something to take off the edge (an opiate), and I was SOOOO tempted. But I held off, only because I knew I could get the epidural soon. I also managed to hold off on getting it until my nurse came back, and the epidural was put in around 2:30pm.

The epidural process was pretty uneventful. They made Dan go and sit in the corner (he gets woozy about blood sometimes), and my nurse held my hand. Sweet, sweet relief. Sort of. It only took to half of my body at first, and it took about a solid half-hour for the other side to get the memo. But, eventually it did. Oh man. What. A. Difference. At that point, I was feeling pretty good, and I was so ready to have the baby. However, at about 3pm, I was only at 4cm.

I was checked again around 5pm and was at 5-6 cm. Better, but I wished I was farther along! However, I wasn't too upset now that I wasn't doubled over in pain. I remember having a popsicle an hour or two earlier. My nurse asked me if I wanted another one, and I held off. I was going to wait for an hour or two, give myself something to look forward to, to break up the time. But ladies and gents, I never got that second popsicle.

Starting at about 5pm, the baby's (it is hard for me to refer to Ben as "Ben" at this point in the story, since this is when he started having a hard time) heart rate would get very low during each contraction. My nurse started putting me in different positions to see if that would help and relief some pressure on the poor guy. We thought he was getting too squeezed during each contraction. At first, my doctor wasn't too concerned, because the baby would recover very nicely each time. But, the changing of positions didn't help too much. And then, there was a shift in my doctor's opinion. I am not sure what did it, but it got more serious. They inserted an internal monitoring device and kept shifting me around. Then, my doctor decided to do another check. I had just had one 5pm-ish, so they normally don't do one again so soon (it was getting near 6:30 around this time). He checked. Then, everything moved at the speed of lightening. He told me that this was going to be a C-section, and it was going to be NOW. The cord was prolapsed, and it was getting compressed by his head, cutting off all air supply to him. Later, I found out that I was pretty much fully dilated at this point.

Everyone was working in a whirlwind around me, getting me ready to move to the surgery room. I was insanely scared, and began to only focus on very small details. For instance, I remember telling one nurse (because now there were about ten around me), "Don't forget to wheel the IV with me, I'm attached to it!" Otherwise, I was pretty quiet. Dan was whisked away to put on scrubs so that he could go into the room with me.

I was wheeled into the surgery room, and my doctor picked me up and put me on the table himself. From talking to my nurse afterwards, this is pretty rare. Then, the anesthesiologist was there, and she was extremely stressed out. She asked my doctor how much time she had, and he said 2-3 minutes tops, and she said "That isn't enough time!" Even though I had an epidural already, I guess it wasn't up to the strength they use for C-sections. She dosed me up higher, but I could still feel one side (similar to when I first got the epidural and one side took longer). The doctor began doing something and asking me if I could feel it. And I *could.* And it was not good. The whole experience was terrifying. After what seemed like minutes, but was actually seconds, I was told that I was going under general anesthesia, and that was the last thing I remember. Ben was born at 6:34 pm. Dan never was allowed in.
Poor Ben right after birth. This picture actually makes me sort of sad, because I think of how miserable he must have been feeling. But I am so thankful to have it! It was taken with Dan's phone by a nurse. She nicely went out and got his phone and then brought it back to him. This must have been right after 10 minutes, because he looks pinked up.
When I came to, I was in a general recovery room, which was a big room with other patients. My area was sectioned off with a curtain. I was by myself. I felt miserable, but also still very numb. I had a hard time swallowing, and, oh yeah, I really wanted to know what happened to my baby! Was he OK??? I had no choice but to sit there and wait for someone to come talk to me. I felt so helpless. Finally, either my doctor or Dan came in and explained things to me. Turns out, my doctor had come in earlier, I just have no recollection of it. I was told that Ben had to be resuscitated at birth. Due to the amount of time that he was without oxygen, they were concerned about possible brain damage and seizures. He was currently being treated by being in a low-stimuli environment and having cooling treatment. The cooling treatment was supposed to mitigate brain damage. I was told that if he had any seizures, he would need to be transferred to another hospital that had the highest level NICU.

They told me that I couldn't go see him until I could move my toes. So that was my first physical challenge as a new mother. I concentrated so hard on those damn toes. After what seemed like an eternity, I was able to give one a slight wiggle. I was hauled into a wheelchair, and pushed to the NICU.

Ben undergoing the cooling treatment.
My poor sweetheart. Ben was high up on a table, in only a diaper, with a bunch of cords coming from him. I wasn't supposed to even touch him, because of the low-stimuli environment treatment, but I forgot about that and reach up to touch his toe. That was basically the only part of him I could see, because he was high up on the table, and I was way down low in the wheelchair and too numb to stand. I asked Dan to take a quick picture of him with his cell phone and show it to me. He had already taken a few pictures, but I wanted one of right that second so that it was like I was looking at him. He was all red and splotchy, and I felt so sorry for him that he must be feeling cold and miserable.
This is the picture that Dan took for me the first time I saw Ben.
The NICU doctor gave me more information and said that a lot would be determined on how Ben did throughout the night. I really tried to use all of my persuasive techniques to get the doctor to tell me if Ben would have any permanent damage or not. But he absolutely could not say either way. So it was a waiting game. Looking back, I should have been so thankful that he was even alive. Instead, I was greedily wanting him to be 100% healthy, immediately. I don't think I even thanked the doctor for saving his life.

I was wheeled to a post-partum room in the maternity ward. It was hard hearing the cries of newborns in the other rooms. Dan and our parents came back with us. I wasn't much company, but we did finally tell everyone Ben's name. As an aside, before we came to the hospital, I told Dan not to tell anyone Ben's name until I was there. I really wanted to see everyone's reactions, especially Dan's dad, because Ben's middle name, Steven, is named for him. In my head, the only scenario where this could happen would have been when Dan went into the waiting room after Ben was born and told everyone to come back. I had planned on having everyone in shortly after Ben was born, so I thought the suspense wouldn't last long. Well, Dan kept to his word, and no one knew Ben's name! Even the hospital staff were just referring to him as Baby Petouvis. It is funny looking back on it, because I would have totally been OK with Dan telling Ben's name in this situation, but he stuck to his word dammit!

They cleared out pretty quickly, and Dan and I were left in the room. I couldn't get out of bed, so I had Dan bring me some toiletries that my sister had put in a care package for me. I remember being very methodical about this, really seizing control of this small thing. I went though each product. The lotion, the face wipes, the little disposable toothbrushes, the deodorant, the mouthwash, brushing my hair. Eventually out of exhaustion, I zonked out.

I woke up with a start around 2am. I was in a panic. What could I do to help Ben? I felt so helpless. And that is when I seized on pumping. It was perfect, and really the only thing I could do to help at that point. As soon as I thought about it, I had to begin it that second. So I switched on the light (Dan was thrilled), called the nurse, and she wheeled everything in.

Ben had no seizures through the night, and they felt confident in taking him off the cooling treatment by morning. In fact, I was given the clear to pick him up and attempt to nurse. I won't get too into the nursing stuff, because I talk all about the beginning of nursing here.

Ben was a healthy weight when he was born (8 lbs. 1 oz.), so he had that going for him. And he just kept getting better and better. By the third day (I think) the NICU doctor was confidently telling me that Ben would be fine. The relief I felt was indescribable. But also, at that point I felt like, of course. Of course, he would be fine. He is Ben; he is so strong. I feel like having that thought is offensive to mothers of babies that do have problems, and I don't mean it that way at all. But that is how I felt. So thankful, but also like I expected that. I expected for him to be 100% OK. (I did not feel like this the first night, only after being with him the few days after).

Ben's first outfit! Loved that outfit. He grew out of it by the end of the week.
Later, I found out more details of his birth. He was pale and not breathing when he first came out. His first Apgar score was 1. They performed manual ventilation, and his color improved by two minutes, but he was still having trouble breathing, so they kept the manual ventilation going for about 5-6 minutes. His five minute Apgar score was 5. They kept suctioning and they used a neopuff (a sort of electronic ventilator) until 10 minutes of age. His Apgar score at 10 minutes was 9.

After his birth, I had all sorts of self-doubt. I thought maybe my choice to be induced somehow contributed to the prolapsed cord. My good friend who is a cardiac neonatal intensive care nurse told me that the cord probably was in that position regardless. She thought that actually being in the hospital for an induced birth might have help, because otherwise it may have happened if my water broke on its own at home. My sweet labor nurse (who visited me in my post-partum room the next day) echoed these sentiments. Who really knows one way or the other. The important thing is that Ben is great. I would drive myself crazy thinking of whether the decisions I made contributed to or saved him from his complications.

So happy to be going home. Ben was peeved that his morning included his circumcision and Hep B shot. As if he hadn't been through enough already people! No cameras!
A few months after Ben was born, they had a NICU reunion and I made little thank you notes for the NICU nurses with pictures of Ben. I received a letter back from one of the nurses. I really treasure that letter. Here is a bit of what she said:

"Honestly, I can say to you that Ben is a miracle. The doctors, nurses, and quick medical intervention saved him. When I left, shortly after admission, because it was a shift change, I really thought he would be moved to Fairfax [the hospital with the highest level NICU] for more medical intervention, but...He miraculously turned himself around as he transitioned. I was so thankful when he was there the next day. I think of him occasionally when I grab a pair of earrings, because I have one lonely earring sitting in my box. The other is someone near the entrance to the OR. I was rushing to get gowned and it flew out of my ear. Anyways, when I see it, I wonder how Ben is."

So that is Ben's birth story. He was born on a Friday, and discharged on a Wednesday, in a late winter snow storm. After getting home, I would just cry all of the time, because I was so thankful for everyone's kindness (and maybe from the hormones). My family, my friends, the staff at the hospital. It was just so humbling. It's hard to believe that he is a year old now! I love him so much, and I honestly could not picture my life without him in it. It is cliché, but real. His birth, while traumatic, made me even more thankful for his amazing existence. It also made me incredibly thankful for Dan. I hate to say "he was my rock," because that is so cheesy. But ya'll, he was my rock.

Happy Birthday Ben! May your life continue to be wonderfully way less exciting than your birth!