Boob farts. 

The NICU is a sad place; a hard place. It’s a place you don’t want to be and when you get there it’s full of fears and tears and bad news a lot of the time. 
But. 
There is also laughter. 

Sometimes it’s hysterical, because you’re overtired, stressed and terrified. But it’s still laughter. 
Because I had a moment of ‘everything-is-awful-this-has-totally-screwed-me-for-life’ (with a bit more swearing) last week, I have written a little list.

A funny, happy list. 
To remind us that there are some hilarious memories from that scary place. And although it’s easy to play the terrifying parts over and over in your head, it’s important to stop and play some good bits for a while, to steady your heart rate and make you smile.  

1. The projectile poop on the incubator wall!! A CPAP belly is hugely distended and full of gas, and when you lift those tiny frog-like legs up to change the nappy the pressure of those bony knees on that belly can really help the bowels push! It is immensely satisfying and truly hilarious when you lift those little legs and a squiggly pale yellow poo squirts out of that little bottom across the incubator and onto the end wall. Bullseye!

2. The boob fart. Yes boys, even us ladies still find fart sounds funny, though we generally don’t let you know this. So many times you’re sitting in that milking shed and someone’s suction loosens for a second and the whole room giggles. Boob farts are awesome. 

3. The good news. I remember the day Oliver came off the vent for the first time and onto CPAP. We walking into the Nicu andthe NNP waved from the nurses station and started to walk out. I assumed she was just going about her day so we walked into the nursery. Walked up to Oliver’s incubator and I completely burst into tears. The poor NNP bursts in the doors running after us because she had wanted to warn me! I can still see that amazingly petite little lady in my head, running after us down the corridor! 

4. Those nurses. The ones who, in a place of quiet and terror, are loud, sarcastic and make you laugh even though you feel like you shouldn’t. The nurses who talk about your baby like he’s already at school and are so loud you want to ask her to be quiet but you are so enjoying the normality of sound that you can’t help but laugh with her. The Nurse who laugh at the end of literally every sentence, even if what she’s saying isn’t funny, and you find yourself laughing too. The Nurses who are so brilliantly sarcastic that just sitting and listening to her banter with another nurse is a fantastic way to pass the morning of incubator staring. And the nurses who have a different accent for every day of the week and a sense of humour so like your own that you realise you haven’t looked at the incubator for half an hour because you’ve been so enjoying the hilarious chats. 

5. That time that the doctor/nurse/social worker/therapist/parent/visitor said milk, or was it breast, or feed/pump/express/boob/baby/supply/boost/EBM/Milton/lactation/let-down/mother/child/drink/cookies and suddenly you’ve got two great big wet headlights on your chest and it leaves no doubt in the room that, no, there is not a supply issue. 

6. The laughter without a reason. I don’t know why, probably overtired, hormonal hysteria, but I remember extremely clearly sitting in the parent lounge laughing till I cried with some of these mums. I cannot for the life of me remember what we were laughing at. But we laughed so hard. 

It’s not a long list. But when you’re stuck in the sad place I want you to read it, or write your own. Because it’s okay to go over the funny bits in your head too. It doesn’t mean you’re not respecting the hard memories, you’re just having a little rest. 

Rest up mums. 

  

Advertisements

No Scrubs.

And no, I’m not talking about the hospital at all today. Not even talking about prematurity!! 
It’s a liiiiiittle bit of a feminist-esque rant through the eyes of a mum. 

It’s 1999 and TLC are singing they don’t want no scrub…hanging out the passengers side of his best friends ride. 
17 years later and you’re still doing it boys. 

So I’m walking the other day, walking O to sleep because if you haven’t discovered this yet, prams are amazing sleep machines that knock your kid out in 5 minutes and guarantee a solid nap and save you 90 minutes of shushing and rocking the bassinet. 
And a car drove by and with it came the classic wolf whistle. 

Now I’m not wearing short shorts with my lovely post pregnancy butt cheeks sagging out the bottom because let’s just remember for a second that I put on 25kg in my pregnancy with these boys (and I only made it to 24 weeks, let’s NOT imagine the size of me had I made it to term!!!). I’m wearing 3/4 pants, and a nice loose singlet because what new mum wears tight clothes in the first 10 years of her child’s life, let’s be honest. 

I’ve always hated the wolf whistle. Maybe some people get a confidence boost from it, but honestly, these guys are driving past at 50-60km/hr, what they see at that speed is a bum and maybe if they quickly look back, a two boob blur in activewear. They don’t see your gorgeous skin or your stunning eyes ladies, let alone your humour, selflessness and uncanny speed at the rubix cube. 
So they whistled past and suddenly I realised I was really mad about it. 
On the one hand I truly feel like a lady pushing a pram is quite obviously a mum, and (not in all cases, I know, there are many amazing single mums – how do they do it?!!) in many cases a mum pushing a pram is also a mum with a partner or a husband. So already I felt like I shouldn’t be whistled at. I mean, I know, I’m hot AF and quite obviously a MILF. But no. I’m not whistle fodder.

But primarily I was mad because I have my son with me. I’m not on my own powering my way around the block, I’m pushing a pram with my precious little baby in it. And (yes I know he’s only 4/7.5 months but he’s avidly taking in his life lessons like the champ he is!!) you’re teaching him that it’s okay to whistle out of a car window at women. 

No, you can’t teach him that. 

You’re teaching him that women are only a physical thing, not a human being, something to look at and whistle at, rather than talk to and learn about. I want to teach my son to respect women. I want him to see women as more than just their bums and boobs. I want him to watch his dad treat his mum gently and respectfully everyday, and I want him to know that this is how all women should be treated. I want him to know that it’s degrading and it makes men look like shallow meatheads (I’m sure I’ll put it in much more eloquent wording for Oliver…). 

I don’t know who the guys think they are doing it for? The women? Themselves? Their friends? 
I think if you actually stopped to think about it you’d realise no one actually gets anything out of that whistle. 

What you should do in that car is stop and give way to people at courtesy crossings, let other cars in when it’s busy and save your rubbish until you stop at a bin. Teach the kids who watch you that being male is being kind and generous towards others, and that appreciating women is about more than just bums and boobs. Rant over. 

  

Shall we pop out for lunch?

Babies don’t have a routine. 
Good luck getting your baby to stick to that.

Baby not sleeping/feeding/waking when you planned? It’s a baby!!! 
We’ve all heard it a million times, preemie or not, from every single person offering advice about motherhood. We get told over and over again, don’t bother making plans, babies have their own routine. Yet at the same time So much about a baby is trying to get feeding and sleeping into some sort of pattern so that the little rascal can grow and develop in a nurturing environment based on full bellies and rest. A tired, hungry baby can’t function and a tired mum can’t function either. So we all battle for the routine. And we breathe through as people support us by telling us our efforts are futile. Thanks for that. 

A baby that spends its first 6 months of ‘life’ in hospital has a routine. A baby on medications for the delicious goodies they didn’t get in that mystical third trimester has a tight routine. A tube fed/medicated baby has an even stricter routine. And a tube fed/medicated baby with feed/medication intolerance has a routine so regimented that mum and baby fall off the wagon if the breeze so much as changes direction.
There’s no such thing as demand feeding, and as often as we can we let them wake on their own, but that can’t happen all the time. There’s volumes that need to be reached, if we don’t get the feeds on time then we lose volume. We lose volume, we lose weight. We desperately need weight. If we don’t get weight then we will be dropping our kids at the high school ball with a tube taped to their face. 
Our little Oliver is in such a well planned routine that his awake time is allocated to physio, tummy time, play mat, sitting, solids, reading and cuddles. His sleep time starts the minute his milk feed starts and he’s stuck in that bed for at least two hours, one for the feed and one to get out of the spew zone. Then there’s an hour of grace that technically should be sleep time, but it’s our time to get out and walk, or go for coffee, or anything to be normal. Then? It’s awake time again. 

And around we go. 
Within this schedule there are medications, some can go together, some can’t, some are pre feed, during feed, post feed, some need refrigeration, some don’t. 

If we miss one that’s just extending the time we have to be on them all as we try to help these little bodies catch up. 

As much as babies have their own routine, and sometimes Oliver does fight the layout of his day, he generally does exactly as he is supposed to, because he has been doing it for so long. In fact, some days, when I’ve gone CRAZY flexible and the feed is 30 mins late, or the awake time is used as a lunch date without all the ‘jobs’ he’s an actual mess. 

Mum??? What IS going ON???
This is why sometimes you get kicked out of the house rather swiftly if he’s woken up mid feed, or why we suddenly bail on plans we tried to make, or why we lock ourselves in the house some days. Because we tried to NOT be in routine that day, and it failed. Because we wanted a little bit of normality and so we sacrificed our normality and sometimes it works and sometimes it really doesn’t. 
Nicu mums, mums of medically fragile kids, mums of kids with special needs, we envy flexibility, spontaneity, the ability to feed elsewhere, the nappy bags that just hold a few nappies, toys and wipes. But we also hold so tight to our inflexibility, as it means we are in control. Geez how many times have I written about control?? 
Our routines are a blessing and a curse and whether it’s more one than the other is inconsequential as we have no choice. If babies have to have a routine, then they have one. And on the days that they don’t want it we cuddle them, tell them we love them and then do the routine anyway, because as much as we would like to just listen to our baby and be flexible, it’s almost impossible. 
Do we have a sleep/feed/awake routine? Yes. Does that make us ‘better’ parents because we can do it and others can’t? No. 

But sometimes on the days when I struggle with our normality and how much I wish it was different I count it as one success we have had. But don’t worry, tomorrow I’ll curse it again because I just want to go out for 3 hours in a row so I can try every duck island ice cream flavour in one sitting.  

  

Don’t grow up, it’s a trap!

1. Hairdresser (it had been a fair while)
2. Pharmacy (Mr O’s list of goodies)

3. Leaving dinner for a close friend (Jaipur obviously)

4. Ed Sheeran (!!!!)

5. Icecream (duck island obviously)

6. Shopping (because – had baby, for some reason not at previous clothing size ??)

The six times I have left Oliver since bringing him home. 

This most recent time I went shopping with a friend as I had a voucher to spend for myself, but I also wanted to get Oliver a sunhat. We don’t go out often, and when we do, its short due to our feeding regime and he’s generally hidden away in his pram because, like pregnant belly touching, people have this thing about touching babies. 

Now, I love pregnant belly touching. People would always be cautious and ask me, but seriously, I loved that you loved to touch my belly and chat to our boys. 

I don’t love baby touching. 

You all know how this mumma feels about hand washing and touching our baby. So I tend to hide him away to avoid having to suddenly tug him closer to me as someone I don’t know reaches out their probably-unwashed-after-working-with-an-advanced-strain-of-Ebola-virus-hand. 

But I know this isn’t good for him, or for me, so I’ve decided I need to take him out more, and for this he will need a sunhat. 

I found the perfect one; snug fit, full circle brim, chin strap, grey (we love grey), oh and $7, need I say more??

The brand of this hat? Charlie&me. 

I’ve never heard of this brand and it gave me a fright to see it on a hat that seemed to be the only right one in a bin full of hats. 

So I bought it, came home, showed it to William. 

We shared a quiet look and then I said I think I’ll take the label off, and he said I think that’s a good idea. And we continued with our day.

There’s a constant balancing act we have discovered. Between needing to keep Charlie present in our lives and needing to make sure Oliver knows he’s perfect, that he’s enough. One thing we know we do not want is Oliver growing up with a shadow over him, feeling that his parents ‘never got over my brother’, that we wanted more than Oliver. And the tough thing is that we do want more, we want Charlie so damn much. I want to be even more tired than I am now, with double the feeding and changing and smiling and little nudey bottom. But we know it wouldn’t have been like this, Charlie would have been a different kid to Oliver even if he looked exactly the same. We would have had much more than ‘just’ feeding issues on our hands. And so as much as it feels awful to say it (more than awful, it makes me feel sick because it doesn’t mean we loved him any less) we want Charlie, but we want the Charlie he could have been. So we walk this line with Oliver, of having Charlie alongside him and we hope we can keep it healthy and happy, so that he never feels sad or alone, as the boy that lived (HP reference noted, and consciously left in, because, you know). 

I want the world to know that Oliver isn’t an only child, but I want Oliver to know that he is. That yes, he has a twin brother, and we miss him, and as he grows bigger he will understand it more, but that he is enough, that we don’t wish it to be different, except in the way that we wish life had just dealt us a perfect hand straight off instead of making us lose the first million rounds. 

Even as I write this it’s hard to make it come out right, but I guess we want Charlie present without him being a burden on his brother. I hope that because we are aware of it, intelligent, insightful human beings we will be able to find the balance in everyday life and it won’t seem too hard. 

But I have a firm belief that children should never feel the worry that their parents do. Yes I want to teach Oliver about money and being kind and relationships, but I think it’s important that he never feels the worries that are an adults domain. He shouldn’t feel stressed if our money is tight, because that’s our job as adults, he’s got so much time to stress about it when he’s grown up, so we will work hard to make sure he doesn’t see it. He shouldn’t feel hurt when adults do or say unkind things because he should see us only being kind in front of him. He shouldn’t have to worry about his mum and dad and if they are happy, because he will learn when he meets someone that’s it’s hard work sometimes, so we will show him how much love we have for each other and keep the tough times to ourselves. 

I don’t think this isn’t preparing him for the ‘real world’. I think the damn real world shoves it’s nose in perfectly fine on its own and as a child you deserve that time to just be, be happy, be trusting, be young, believe in magic and the goodness in everything and everyone. There are years of the real world for him once he’s grown up, why does he need to be shown it now? 

So we will have a brother for him that he knows about, that he can ask about, see pictures, and hold his feet if he wants to. And he will feel sad that he doesn’t have Charlie to play with. But he won’t feel like his parents wish things were better, he won’t feel like his mum cries all the time or his parents love Charlie more. Because it’s our job to show him that he is loved. That he is more than we ever thought we would have. That he is perfect just the way he is, all the time. 

So while it felt a little special that he could have walked around with a hat the said ‘Charlie&me’ it’s not okay for him to do that. He’s Charlie’s identical twin, yes. 

But he’s Oliver. 

  

Why we don’t need a babysitter.

“Would you like me to sit with him while you go out/sleep/shower/cook/do washing/cry/tidy up/read/or any number of other things?”
Literally from the minute that little human escapes your body people are lining up to take him off your hands. I get it, you love him, love babies, love their smell, warmth, weight, comfort. And we love that you love it. Please, keep coming over, cuddle him like crazy, play with him! 

But I’ve waited a long time for this little blob. Waited years for it to be the right time to create them, months for them to grow, not nearly enough months, but still months. Waited/anguished a few (few makes it feel short, it sure as hell wasn’t) hellish months for him to escape his incubator, a few more for him to escape the hospital. 

Granted I probably look like shit. Haven’t slept more than two and a half hours in a row in months, while spending every other hour pretty highly stressed. And so perhaps giving off the vibe that I could do with a break? 
Seriously, thanks, but no thanks.

There’s the obvious one that he’s our baby, I want to hold him, squeeze him, soak him all up into my pores so this little soft, warm, rubbery, pudgy stage is ingrained in my soul forever. 

But then there’s the leftover ones from the road we have been on, the ones that you didn’t fully realise were there until someone offered to take your baby. 

For so long we couldn’t be his parents in the way that we wanted, needed, to. We finally have this chance now that we are home and even though it’s been weeks and weeks we still haven’t had enough. He had nurses and doctors and therapists comforting him during procedures when he should have had us, so when he’s distressed all I want is for his mum and dad to be at his side in a heartbeat so he knows we are there. No matter what. No matter when. No matter how. We are there. 

And the one that is possibly the hardest as it has no end point in sight yet. You don’t know him like we do. 

There’s the practical side of things, using the feeding pump, troubleshooting when it occludes (is it pump or tube?), how many cm his tube sits at and where that is instinctively because all the numbers have all but smudged off, when to vent him or aspirate, how long after a feed until it’s safe out of the spew zone, what cry is bubbles in tummy, and which is bubbles in bowels. 

And then there’s all his little quirks. How to put that dummy in his mouth at the right time, place, speed so he doesn’t throw up, how to rub between his eyebrows to calm him as a feed goes in, while using your little fingers to settle his arms so they don’t touch his face. How to snuggle him onto his side so he’s safe, from suffocation and from aspirating his vomit. How to catch that vomit with a flannel and manage to keep it off his pjs, wrap and bed (it’s taken us weeks but we finally have it!!). The sound that means you need to get your butt in that room ASAP or the boy is going to be swimming in his own spew. It sounds fussy, like, my kid needs all these special things and if he doesn’t get them he will be damaged forever. Which I know isn’t true. But is it so wrong to want to give him it all right now? To want him to have the least distress, the most routine and consistency in his care so that after all the up and down and round and round, he knows he’s safe from harm? 

I don’t think it is.

But that’s just me. 

So thank you so much for offering to sit by him so that I can eat my dinner, or get some sleep but I am truly happy and okay where I am right now. And I’m comfortable knowing that our boy is experiencing things in a way that he expects and understands. This is one more thing that I’m not ready to relinquish control over. We clawed at control for months, trying to hold onto it, keep it with us. Finally there are some things that are now our own. I’m going to hold them close a little longer if that’s okay.
And when we do need a babysitter i promise I’ll keep the “looking after Oliver list” down to an absolute max of 20 pages. 
Just kidding……

……25. 
  

That Florence was onto something.

Florence nightingale proposed a correlation between hand hygiene and general health, well being and mortality. Germ theory wasn’t around at that point but she implemented hand hygiene practices to spectacular effect. Regardless of whether you are 6 weeks, 6 months, 6 years or 60 years old hand hygiene is one easy way to ensure that you and your family stay as healthy as possible, decrease transition of bugs and live as long a life as possible. Therefore I will not apologise for asking you to wash your hands when you come into our home. The fact that our boy is an extremely low birth weight preemie plays a role in this, but to be honest, you should be practicing good hand hygiene in your own home, when you are out and about, and all times in between. If you quickly grab me some milk on your way over here’s a list of what you touch, that who knows how many people have touched before you: your car keys, car door, steering wheel, shopping trolley, wallet, that packet of crackers that 20 other people have picked up, decided against buying and put back, your eftpos card, the eftpos machine, the cashier’s hand as they pass you your receipt, the milk carton, my front door handle, my bathroom tap.

I’m sensible about hand hygiene at home not because I’m a nurse, but because I’m a person, who wants the risks of the transfer of germs to be as low as possible.

This has then been multiplied by a thousand since bringing Oliver home. We are now, in the words of the mums who have requested this topic, a bunch of parents who are to others, hyper-vigilant to the point of ridiculousness, and to ourselves, hyper-vigilant in a usually medically necessary, always psychologically necessary way.

We worry because we have seen it, felt it, experienced it. Because we have lived in hospital and like when you move out of home, you don’t really want to move back.

We check our baby’s temperature more regularly because febrile convulsions in a kid who has already potentially experienced lack of oxygen could be bad, bad news. We look at our baby’s chest, check their breathing, look for in-drawing, listen for wheeze or crackle, because respiratory infection in a chronic lung diseased kid can be fatal. We hear the cry, or see the lip colour change, or feel the hard, distended belly and we know it’s time to get in the car. Time to go back. To be seen. Checked over. Then come home, or stay in. Make a change, or leave things to progress.

The days that you come home again and breathe a sigh of relief were not you being an overprotective mother. They were you making sure this time wasn’t the time that you missed it.

Because you can’t afford to miss it.

You worked too damn hard to get here.

They don’t always know why it’s different. Why a term baby can get a cough, go off its food for 24-48hrs and bounce back and a preemie can get a cough, go off its food for 24-48 days and lose piles of weight, need an NG tube and then struggle for weeks trying to feed orally again….A term baby can get a cold, need 2 nights in hospital on some nasal flow, and a preemie can get a cold and end up in ICU for a week on CPAP and potentially the vent. It is different.

We are hyper-vigilant. Because if we aren’t and we miss it, the consequences do not bear thinking about.
So come along to ED with us. To the GP. To the A&E. And breathe with us when they say there’s nothing to worry about. We will do the same for you, as these are our children. It’s not overprotective, it’s parenting. It’s not over the top, it’s love. It’s not over exaggerating, it’s surviving.

I’m off to wash my hands now. Meet you there ?