Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Mud season

It's here with a vengeance. Our whole yard is a sinkhole. I channeled my grandpa Herbie and actually laid a plank in the mud to allow people to get from the sidewalk to the porch unmolested by ick. It's a good look, I think. Classy.

It's nearly 50 degrees today, so I can almost fool myself into believing it's spring. Are those crocus buds I see? No, they're dirty candy wrappers and Dorito bags poking up from the snow. They're still v. festive, though.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Knock wood

Hester's on the fast track (knock wood): If things keep going the way they're going, she'll be home with us on Saturday. ON SATURDAY! I'm trying not to get my hopes up, but that would be absolutely wonderful. Even if Hester needs a little more time, though, we're talking days, not weeks. Knock wood again, just to be safe.

Now the wheels are turning to get her home with us. Our insurance liaison called today to be sure that we're ready to have her home (um, that would be YES), to talk with us about the visiting nurse and Early Intervention professionals who will be visiting Hester once she's home, and to ask the name of our pediatrician once again. In addition, Hester's nurses have been preparing us for what'll happen at discharge: Hester will have a hearing test and get some bloodwork done, plus we'll have to pick up medicine to bring back to the NICU. At the time of discharge we'll have to bring her car seat up to the unit so they can be sure we're strapping her in properly. And then that's it--we'll be able to go. It's all so wonderful and miraculous!

These 40+ days in the hospital have been joyful, stressful days. On dark days it seemed as though Hester would never be discharged, that she'd always be sick. Even now, it seems impossible to me that our daughter has never had a breath of fresh air, seen the sky, or felt the cold on her cheeks. She is 6 weeks old, after all; she'll be 7 weeks this Friday. But soon the day will come when we'll walk out of the hospital with Hester in hand. There'll be no lojack tracking her every move, no nurses taking her vitals every 4 hours, no cafeteria food or leads or hospital cots or Starbucks by the highway or "Do we have a room tonight?" or Motel Sixes or visiting hours or bath class or midnight weigh-ins or memorized NICU phone numbers or "Who has her today?" or long walks down the corridors of an eerily silent hospital at 4:45am. There will be other challenges to face, of course, but this particular challenge will be over.

Boy howdy, it'll be good to have Hester home.


Monday, February 26, 2007

Good news

Today Hester's main nurse started talking to us about her discharge plan. Can you even believe it? Petunia and I are over the moon! We're so excited about the prospect of having Hester home with us!

As you might have guessed, Hester had a really good weekend. She felt great, and if she continues to do well she'll be able to come home next weekend. NEXT WEEKEND!!!!!! More likely, she'll need a few extra days and she'll actually come home March 6-7, but whatever. The point is, the end's in sight.

That's damned good news.


Friday, February 23, 2007

The real world

The real world intrudes on us this weekend. I'm staying home from the hospital tonight to take care of some non-Hester things: oil change, BJs run, insurance house inspection tomorrow morning, and gazillions of errands. Petunia will be with Hester, so that's good. I'll join them tomorrow after the inspection and we'll spend the weekend at the hospital again. I already miss Hester and Petunia, though. Bah.

But on the upside, I'll install Hester's infant car seat tonight! It just arrived and it's very cute. It's also supposed to be very safe, so even better. I can't find a professional to install it over the weekend, so I'll just do it myself. I read the instructions cover-to-cover (nerd alert) and I think I'll be fine. Maybe I'll treat the Grey Ghost to a car wash and vacuum, too. Oh, it's exciting times around here! Can you even stand it?

Tonight at 5:10pm, Hester will be 6 weeks old. That's nuts--I can't believe it's been that long since her birth. It's funny, too, because that 6-week mark is magical even with Hester in the hospital: Hester's sleeping through the night better and better, and Petunia and I are learning how to adjust to life with a baby (albeit a baby in the hospital). We're figuring things out little by little, and we're so much less stressed than we were 2 weeks ago.

Yay for that.


Thursday, February 22, 2007

Oh crap.

Making today even better: Freezing rain. That'll mean nice, icy roads come 6pm. Good times, folks, good times.

But how can I complain about icy roads when they'll eventually bring me to this sweet little girl?

I can't wait to see her! I miss her so much.


Ugh. But hopeful.

Today has been awful so far: Screaming, crying, overtired kids; baby poop flung on the ceiling (don't ask); disastrous art projects; scheduling stress. I'm so ready for this workday to end. When it does I'll hop in the car, turn on The Lovely Bones (I'm re-"reading" it on CD), and drive an hour to see my beloved wife and daughter. How sad is it that I'm looking forward to the commute?

We had some news about Hester's medical progress, however: She might be discharged as early as late next week! It's more likely that she'll be in the hospital until March 7 or so, but at least the end is (sort of) in sight. Petunia and I had hoped to take her to the Smith Spring Bulb Show, and it looks like that'll be able to happen. Hooray! I absolutely can't wait to show Hester all the fun stuff in western MA. Sylvester's, Atkins Farms, the Eric Carle Museum, Thorne's, The Raven, The Book Mill, historic South Deerfield, the glacial potholes, the Bridge of Flowers, Colrain and Cider Days...I could go on forever. I love western MA. I'm so happy that Hester will be able to see it soon.


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

A few updates on baby Hester

--The television thing has been rectified. Since our complaint, Hester's nurses have gone above and beyond to include her in daily nursery happenings. One of her nurses even used a bed sheet to make a baby sling for her. Hester loves it, and it's surprisingly comfortable for us, too.

--Hester's new wheels arrived yesterday! It's so exciting to have a new stroller just for her. Thanks, Grammy and Grandpa!

--Hester gets bigger and stronger each day. She's up to 9 lbs. 3 oz. and she's 21.5 inches long. She's outgrown lots of clothes, too, which seems crazy to me. Her nurses are still saying 2-3 weeks till she comes home, though one nurse told us that we'll have a better picture of her progress this weekend.

--Ms. Stork, our social worker, continues to be a real help to us. She's spot on with her paperwork, and just as I was about to call her yesterday to touch base, she called me. She helped us clear up a possible ICWA situation, and she's been a great advocate for us with Ms. Scary. Even better, Ms. Stork thinks that Hester's a wonderful, perfect little baby. What's not to love?

--After that Consumer Reports article came out about the infant car seats, we canceled our original car seat order and placed a new one for the Baby Trend Flex-Loc. When the article was retracted, we thought, "Hell, if the Flex-Loc withstands 70 MPH impact, so much the better" and continued with our new order. Apparently, thousands of parents of newborns did the same thing, so the shipment has been delayed pretty badly. As it is, our car seat is scheduled to arrive this Friday. We wondered for a while whether Hester would be out of the hospital before her car seat arrived. That would have a been a pickle, eh?

--Petunia is home today to rest and recover. She's been sick for ages, so she took the day off to sleep till noon. She's downstairs now watching something we got in early January from the Netflix; also, she made pancakes for the kids and me this morning. I haven't had pancakes since before Hester was born, and I probably won't have them again until Hester comes home. And hey! only a day late for Shrove Tuesday. Not bad, eh?


Thursday, February 15, 2007

Another hospital situation

Petunia and I don't watch much television. We only get a few stations here at the house and we don't turn on the set that often. Sometimes we enjoy movies from the Netflix, but we're not hardcore. Our daughter, however, is rapidly becoming a TV addict.

Here's how it started: A couple of weeks ago Hester's nurse turned on her TV when Hester was fussy and the nurse had to feed and give meds to another baby in the nursery. After that, I noticed that the TV was on sometimes when I came in for middle-of-the-night feedings, but I didn't think much of it. I was more concerned about Hester than about her surroundings.

Since Monday, however, it seems that the TV is always on in Hester's room. Her nurses have begun to tell us that she "likes watching PBS" or that she "enjoyed a few shows on the Newborn Channel." Even worse, the TV is just a few feet from her crib; she faces it when she lies on an incline in bed.

This TV thing has got to stop. I know that her nurses are busy with children who are sicker than Hester, but there's no reason why our daughter should lie in her crib all day and watch TV by herself in her little alcove room. She can join everyone else in the NICU nursery; if they can't hold her, they can put her in the stroller or the swing or the chair or even just pop her into her travel crib. She needs to hear real people's voices and see real people's faces. She does not need to lie in a teeny tiny room by herself with only "To Catch a Predator" for company.

I am ripshit over this. It's all well and good for Hester to self-soothe--and they're understandably big on that in the nursery--but she is a one-month old infant who needs to be with people when she's awake. I told Hester's social worker that we don't want the TV on in Hester's room, and I hope this'll be the end of it.

My patience is wearing very thin these days. I'd better buck up, though, because we still have 2-3 weeks to go.


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Today was an odd day.

We had our first snowstorm this winter and the city all but shut down.

Two of my kids stayed home because of the weather. Another left at noon and the last left at 4pm. I got out of work 2 hours early, a new record for me.

It's Valentine's Day, yet Petunia and I are spending the night apart: I'm staying home because of the terribly icy roads, but she took the train to the hospital to be with Hester. I'm really glad she can be there with our baby, but I miss both of them a lot.

However, I've been v. busy here at home. I framed some art, organized the kids' toys, did some tax stuff, sorted photos into albums, and cleaned off the desk. I'm feeling more at home than I have in weeks.

Now it's 8pm and I'm ready for bed. Not quite the Valentine's Day of my dreams, but a pretty good day nonetheless.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Another hospital post

Hey, thanks for all of your nice comments about my hospital issues the other night. Good news: Last night's nurse (also new to us) was v. kind. And so are almost all of her other nurses--I think I wasn't clear about that in my post. Right now Petunia and I are opting to do some watchful waiting, but if anything crazy happens again we'll be all over it. Rest assured: No one puts Baby in the corner!

And so it goes.

Tomorrow for Valentine's Day we're bringing my v. favorite apricot triangle cookies to the unit along with a shitload of Wendy's Frosty coupons that I got suckered into buying because the cashier said the word "adoption." Whatever. I just hope the nurses like Frosties! We're also bringing a copy of Hester's "My First Valentine" photo for them. Don't laugh at me--I know that's hardcore cheesy, but she's too adorable to resist dressing in crazy bibs and cute little outfits! Besides, if I could have found a "My First Valentine" outfit for Reuben when I first met him, I definitely would have gotten one. (Reuben fits nicely into 3-6 month clothing, by the way.)

So. Wanna see a picture of Hester from yesterday? Here it is!

Hester Willa loves her tummy time! She's a strong little baby, too. Yesterday was her one-month birthday--happy birthday, baby Hester!


Monday, February 12, 2007

Hospital issues

Hester's been spending weekends with us in our hospital room, only going back to the nursery at night while we're asleep. During the night, her nurses call us to do her diapers and feedings. It's an unbelievable setup--she gets the nursing she needs to help her recover, and we get to parent her almost full-time. We couldn't be luckier with this situation.

Even better, Hester's daytime nurses absolutely love us. And why not? We're responsible for her care and they know we'll come to them with even the slightest question about her well-being (i.e., last night we inquired about the baby acne on her neck). The daytime nurses are content to let us do our thing as long as Hester's feeling well. In addition, they give us all sorts of nice compliments and generally work to strengthen our role as parents. They ask our opinion about her care (medicine before feeding or after?), give us room to make decisions on her behalf (yesterday she had lots of tummy time and a bath, for example), and trust that we know Hester better than they do. "After all," one nurse said, "You're her parents."

At night, however, everything's different.

When we turn in for the evening, we have to take Hester back to the NICU. This is hard for us for several reasons, but mostly because it's such a wake-up call: Our daughter is in the hospital, and however free we are to make decisions for her during the day, at night her nurses call the shots completely. It's really hard to give up parenting Hester and to allow her nurses to take control once again. In the beginning, it was fine: Hester was really sick and we didn't know jack about how to help her recover. Now that she's feeling so much better, however, we have some pretty strong ideas about how she should be treated.

Last night all of this stuff came to a head for me. Petunia and I went to bed at 9pm so that we could get a little shut-eye before Hester's next feeding. We switch off on feedings, and I agreed to take the 1st feeding last night. We expected Hester to eat around midnight; she's a pretty regular eater, and she needed some meds, vitals, and a weigh-in at midnight anyway. At 1:30am her nurse Betsie--someone we've never had before--came for me, saying that Hester was hungry and needed to eat. "Fine," I thought, "She slept through her meds and is awake a little later than usual. No big deal."

Well, it turned out that Hester had indeed woken up when Betsie gave her the meds, weighed her, and took her vitals. This had happened at midnight, as predicted. However, Betsie thought Hester needed sleep more than she needed food (this despite the fact that Hester lost weight overnight once again). Betsie tried to settle Hester for an hour, and for an hour Hester cried and her nurse got frustrated. Betsie gave up at 1:30am and called me to come feed Hester.

When I got down to the nursery, I soothed Hester before starting to feed her. When I heard how long she'd been awake, I was concerned that all the air in her tummy would make her vomit, something she's prone to doing in the best of circumstances. I was pissed that Hester had been upset for so long and that no one had called me, but I needed to focus on Hester's feeding. Fortunately for all involved, she ate well and kept it down. The poor kid was hungry, after all.

But after that ordeal, she was also Awake with a capital A. I didn't mind at all; I was already up, and I was happy to spend a little time with her out of dreamland. I didn't rile her up, though--I soothed her and tried to settle her, but she stayed awake for an hour and a half after her feeding. I sang quietly to her, rocked her, walked her, and pat her. We just looked at each other for over an hour. She fell asleep on her own time when she was ready, just before 3am. She'd only had one awake time during the day, so I figured she was due for another one anyway.

However, during Hester's awake period 2 different nurses stopped by her tiny room. One asked me if we held Hester all day during our weekends with her, and I said that we held her a lot. "You have to put her down more. You're not doing her any favors--she needs to get used to sleeping in her crib," she told me. I was really angry, but I told her politely that Hester spends a lot of time alone in her crib when we're not there with her. I also said that when we're there, our focus is on bonding with Hester. "You're not doing her any favors, " she repeated, and left the room.

The second nurse stopped by around 2:30am just after I'd changed Hester's [very wet] diaper. "Oh, I thought you finally got her to sleep," she said, sounding all disappointed. "I saw you standing over her crib and thought she'd finally gone down." I said, "No, she was wet. I thought she'd rest more comfortably with a fresh diaper." "Hmm," said that nurse, sounding suspicious.

When Hester fell asleep at 3am, I got her settled in her crib. I hooked her up to the monitor, kissed her goodnight, and gathered her laundry to bring home with me to wash. "Goodnight," I told her nurses. But that first nurse couldn't leave well enough alone. She said to me in a condescending and sarcastic way, "Do you have enough laundry there?" (She asked me once before in the same tone whether I did laundry every day for Hester and smiled smugly when I told her yes.) I was fed up, so I simply said, "I'm happy to do Hester's laundry. It helps me feel that I'm caring for her even when I can't be with her." Then I left the nursery and went back to our room, but not before telling Betsie to give us a holler if Hester needed anything. "Even if she wakes up and just needs to be soothed, please call us," I added.

I got up at 4:30am to shower and get ready for the drive back home. At 5am I stopped by the nursery to tell Betsie I was leaving. Hester was awake and crying, obviously hungry. I wasn't upset, though--Betsie was changing her diaper and checking her vitals, something we have to do before every feeding whether Hester likes it or not. Betsie looked upset when she saw me, though, and she said, "I wasn't going to call for you yet." I reassured her that I had to leave for work and that I was just stopping by to say goodbye to Hester. "Petunia's in our room," I told her, "Just give her a holler when Hester's ready to eat." Then I left for work, and I didn't think anything about it until Petunia called me at 10:30am to say that Betsie never woke her. According to Hester's day nurse, Betsie fed Hester by herself. Furthermore, Betsie told Hester's day nurse that Petunia and I left the hospital.

Now I'm seeing red.

I understand that Hester's night nurses have their own way of doing things. It's nighttime, after all, so they try to keep interactions with her to a minimum to train her to sleep at night. But the veiled accusations that either we're spoiling Hester or we don't know what we're doing really bother me. And the laundry thing just gets my goat, because really? Really it's the only thing I can do to parent my daughter while I'm at home raising other people's children. I've loved doing Hester's laundry every morning, and I take pride in the fact that she doesn't have to wear hospital clothes or use hospital linens. So suck it, Nurse 1. Laundry is my responsibility, not hers.

The question now is to decide what to do, if anything. Clearly, we will have a problem if someone feeds Hester again while one of us is asleep down the hall. We will also have a problem if Hester is left to cry again when she's hungry. But it's a fine balance because we don't want to get everyone riled up and lose our weekend privileges with Hester. She should be home in 3 weeks or so, and we're just trying to be patient and take it day by day.

Obviously, some days are easier than others.


Friday, February 09, 2007

"Your colors are pink and pink."

Here's the thing: I like pink. I do. But HOLY MOLY there's a lot of pink in this house since Hester came on the scene!

When we found out that Hester was going to be a girl (at least at birth), I knew she'd receive some pink things as gifts. However, I didn't realize that 97% of everything she's received would be pink. When the first few gifts arrived, I was pretty amused, like, "Oh look, pink for a girl. Isn't that funny and quaint?" Several more gifts arrived and I grew bewildered, like, "Wow, are people really still doing the pink thing for girls?" Dozens and dozens of presents later, I am confused and uncertain. Somehow it has been decided that pink is the signature color for our baby girl, and there's nothing I can do about it. I'm growing paranoid, too: I wonder how much of this is because Hester's a girl and how much of it is because she's the daughter of lesbians.

All of this leads me to some questions for my readers: Did you receive exclusively blue or pink gifts for your baby? Did you want those colors for your own sweet bundle of joy? Do you give exclusively pink or blue gifts at baby showers?

This inquiring mind wants to know.


Thursday, February 08, 2007

Feeling better

Petunia and I are home from tonight's hospital trip. We had a lovely time with our Hester; we talked with her, played with her, and read to her. She fell asleep soundly and was resting comfortably when we left. She took a full bottle of formula for Petunia, too. I was okay leaving her; I was sad, of course, but the weekend is just around the corner. I live for weekends with my Hester!


A difficult evening

Last night the dam burst. Here's what happened:

I drove up to the hospital right after work and got there just after Hester's feeding. She was awake and calm when I arrived just after 7pm, and I held her, talked to her, and read to her until she fell asleep. She was peaceful and relaxed, and I fell asleep immediately with her in my arms (this is strictly verboten in the hospital). I covered when her nurse came to give her some meds at 8pm, but a few minutes later I fell asleep again.

Some 20 minutes later, I came to and realized I needed to get on the road in order to be safe to drive. Also, I didn't want to get busted sleeping with the baby. I absolutely hated to do it, but I put Hester in her crib and got her settled before telling her nurse that I needed to get on the road if I was going to make it back to Worcester in one piece. Unfortunately for me, Hester's nurse last night was Karen, a rather cold person who seems to be suffering a bit of compassion fatigue. She said, "Oh, you're leaving so soon? Are you going to be back tonight?"

Way to pour alcohol in an open wound, Karen.

I'd already been feeling really sad and guilty, but Karen's comment touched off the tears. As I wrote a little note in Hester's journal wishing her a peaceful night, I couldn't hold off the flood. I managed to get off the unit and into the elevator before the sobs came, and I walked through the long empty corridors of the hospital shaking with sadness. By the time I got outside I was crying out loud, those tired little kid sobs that take over your whole body. When I got to the car I just put my head down on the steering wheel and cried and cried.

I called Petunia several minutes later and she helped calm me down. I drove home safely (though on the phone with Petunia for most of that hour), and when I got home I crawled right into bed with a flannel blanket of Hester's I'd brought home from the hospital to wash. I fell asleep immediately, thank goodness. I slept hard and let myself sleep in a bit this morning.

Of course, when I woke up today my eyes were black from sleep deprivation and swollen from crying so hard. I caught Petunia's cold during the night as well, so I spent several hours this morning coughing and blowing my nose before the cold meds caught up with me. I felt like ass, physically and emotionally. Not a pretty sight.

I called the NICU around 8:30am this morning and spoke with Debby, Hester's day nurse. I started crying again during our conversation, but I felt loads better when Debby reassured me that Hester'd had a good night. I know she's in good hands with Debby, too. (She's in fine hands with Karen as well, but Karen doesn't talk with her and love on her the way that Debby does.) I just called again a few minutes ago and Hester's doing much better, eating well and going down on her medicine. Truly, what a relief.

Tonight my plan is to stay with Hester for a few hours at the hospital, then come home to our flannel sheets and doggy and kitties. Petunia will be there as well. It's always better when both of us are there with Hester, so I'm glad for all 3 of us that we'll be together tonight.

Despite last night's meltdown, I'm feeling optimistic again right now. Tomorrow at 5:10pm Hester will be 4 weeks old, and she's the very apple of my eye. I try to remind myself that this is what we have to do to get through her stay in the hospital: take things day by day, go easy on ourselves, and know that Hester grows stronger and healthier all the time. In 3 weeks or so we'll be bringing her home, and what a happy day that will be! Perhaps it will be all the sweeter for the tough times we're experiencing now.

Fingers crossed, anyway.


Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Thanks for your comments

And okay then, Hester Willa it is.

Last night I spent the night at the hospital with Hester. Hester had a pretty tough night: she vomited, cried, refused to eat, and was comforted only when I held her. Truth be told, I would have held her all night if her nurses had allowed it. And I'd have done so happily. In the end, I only got 1.5 hours of sleep. But here's what's weird--I was really and truly happy to be awake with her. Go figure.

Having Hester in the hospital is taking its toll on me in daily wear and tear. This is my current schedule during the work week:

8am-6pm: Work at home in central MA

6pm: Grab overnight bag and Hester's bag of clean laundry and race to car

6:15-7:15pm: Run any essential errands in town (grocery, post office, etc.), then drive to the hospital


6:15-7:15pm: Burn rubber driving to the hospital. It's an hour away

7:15-8:15pm or so: Arrive at hospital. Spend time with Hester. Feed her, change her, love on her. At some point, start drowsing off and hand her back to her nurses so that she can be hooked up to her monitors (this is their requirement, not mine)

11pm-4:30am: Feed Hester on demand. Settle her after feedings

4:30am: Hop in shower at hospital. Pack up stuff, clean up hospital room. Grab Hester's dirty laundry to wash at home

5:10am: Hit the road for home

5:15am: Stop at Sbux just before jumping on the highway

5:15-6:15am: Burn rubber heading home for work. Listen to NPR, try to get my mind settled for the day before me

6:15am: Do Hester's laundry and any items of Petunia's and mine from the night before

6:20am: Open mail from the day before

6:30-8am: Clean for kids. Mop, dust, windows, vacuum, and do other tasks as needed

8am-6pm: Work at home

Lather, rinse, and repeat.

Some nights the hospital is too full for us to stay, so we end up leaving the hospital around 11pm. Those are the nights when we drive home all crazy-tired, trying like mad to keep ourselves awake. When we get home, we putz around the house for a bit and finally go to sleep around 1:30am. Those days are worse for me since it's so hard to be away from Hester Willa. Sleeping in my own bed is nice, but I can fall asleep anywhere these days. The hospital could give me a bed of nails and I swear I'd say thanks and curl right up, snoring like a fool before my head ever hit the proverbial pillow.

And so it goes. We'll probably be doing this for another 3-4 weeks. Although it's tiring and worrisome, I'm just so glad that Hester is doing well. I'm even more glad that she's our little girl.

She couldn't be more precious, could she? The cuteness is overwhelming! I love her so much.


Tuesday, February 06, 2007


I've attempted to post several times recently, but I can't think of anything to write. Hmmm.

Any ideas?

Friday, February 02, 2007

My heart aches

Molly Ivins died on Wednesday. She has been a hero of mine since college, and I just can't believe she's gone.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

On stopping time

I am having ISSUES.

I want to stop time.

Hester is 20 days old today. That's 3 weeks old as of 5:10pm tomorrow. We are no longer in the month of her birth. Tomorrow will be her first Groundhog Day; her first Valentine's Day is right around the corner. [I have no idea why the thought of Baby's First Groundhog Day brings tears to my eyes, but there you have it.]

Every single day she changes so much. On Tuesday she smiled her first social smile. Yesterday she hit the 8-lb. mark and was moved up into size 1 diapers. I almost cried when I saw those big size 1s. Don't her nurses know that the newborn ones are good up to 10 lbs.? Couldn't she have stayed with them for old time's sake?

Last night I read Hester her first book. I've had it with me since she was 2 days old, but she wasn't feeling up to reading until yesterday. She liked it a lot; she fell asleep at the end.

Today I used a gift card from Christmas to buy a baby calendar. It'll kill me if I forget the sweetness of these days.

I guess I'd better get used to this feeling, though. It'll be with me the rest of my life.