Bonding

When I was pregnant with Felix, I had certain beliefs and expectations of becoming a new mom again.  I knew I would be tired and sleep deprived for a while, and sore from the c-section.  I knew I wanted to breastfeed, and I knew the baby would sleep in our bed at least part of the time.  I knew we had family and friends who were looking forward to not only meeting our baby, but helping with him for babysitting and such. And I knew I wanted to stay at home with the baby for about the first year or so, at least.

From the first day Felix was born, he gave me hell about breastfeeding, which continues today.  He has found new and unique ways to make nursing challenging just about every week.  From refusing, to not latching right, to blood sugars requiring supplementation, to LOTS of biting.  Its been crazy!

My expectations about sleep deprivation were very inaccurate.  It’s been nothing like I thought it would be.  Felix does not have typical sleep patterns.  For one, he doesn’t really nap.  He sleeps 20-30 minutes, 2-3 times per day while laying on one of us.  If he gets put down, he wakes up.  And at night, for the longest time he didn’t sleep much.  He was awake for 2-3 hours in the middle of the night, and nursed several times overnight.  He would be wide awake and happy, playing in the dark and keeping us awake.  I was getting 3-4 hours of sleep per night for months.  It has evolved a little over time.  Now he generally sleeps well overnight, but still wakes to eat 2-3 times, occasionally staying awake for an hour or two, or occasionally having a night where he doesn’t sleep much at all. On the flipside of that, he occasionally has nights where he sleeps 10 hours straight.  But its more on the sleeping side now.  Even though he’s still challenging to get to go to sleep.

Friends and family have been few and far between as far as visits.  No one babysits except Felix’s big sister Zoey.  And that’s only been a couple times.  But some of that is just because Felix had CMV and was grumpy and colicky until he was about 6 months old.

And that’s where the point of this post comes into play: illness and colic, and bonding with my baby. For the very tough, colicky period, I loved Felix of course, but I didn’t like him. I hated all the crying, particularly because there was nothing I could do to soothe him. I couldn’t make him feel better. He would look directly into my face and scream frantically as if pleading for me to make it better. It broke my heart every day, and I sobbed right along with him.

And after a while the helplessness made me feel like a shitty mom. It made me angry, not at Felix, but at the universe for making my poor innocent baby so uncomfortable and upset. It also made me angry with myself for being so completely unable to make it better. I didn’t understand why it was happening. I started to have feelings of regret and resentment towards myself and Jarrod for deciding to have another baby in the first place. I was desperately missing the time I had spent with my husband, my older kids, my other family, my friends, and even working. I was entirely consumed with the fact that I now had to take care of this little, helpless, miserable, screaming human that I could not comfort or make feel better. I knew it would be a temporary phase in the bigger picture, but every day felt like an eternity. I didn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel.

Then, as more time passed and Felix wasn’t improving, wasn’t getting past his colic, and now had obvious developmental delays… my already sleep-deprived, depressed and anxiety-ridden brain absolutely ran away with ideas of serious illness and disabilities. He wasn’t physically moving right, seemingly wasn’t seeing or hearing well, wasn’t responding to anything or looking at us at all, had no interest in toys or really anything. Our family doctor really didn’t know what to tell us, so he sent us onto specialists. But before we could meet with the specialists, I couldn’t help but worry myself sick. My brain just would not shut off, thinking he had some severe life-altering condition or issue.

When we met with the developmental specialist the first time, Felix had improved only slightly. That was in August. Genetic tests, body system function tests, and many imaging tests were ordered. Physical, occupational and speech/feeding therapy was ordered. The doc said he wanted to be super aggressive for the best outcome. But while we were waiting for all of these appointments, Felix started to improve on his own.

The only test that came back without a normal result was the one for CMV antibodies. Meaning at some point in Felix’s short life, he had been exposed to CMV and had gotten an infection. CMV is like mono, and it effects everyone differently. Apparently it had a very strong, long lasting effect on Felix in a very important developmental period of his life. So he felt like he had a cold/flu for likely 2-3 months, and that is what was delaying everything.

In October, Felix had his follow up, and by then he was like a whole new baby. And since then he has improved even more. He is babbling, playing, social, happy, communicative, and a complete joy to have in our lives. Physical therapy is helping him learn how to move his body the ways he should have learned when he was sick with CMV. It’s giving him the awareness and confidence to try new things and he’s really blossoming.

His illness and delays really drove a stake into my heart at first, and made me question our decision to have another baby. It was extremely tough, and looking back I’m not sure how we survived it. But now that things are coming closer to “normal,” speaking for myself, there’s an overwhelming sense of relief and joy in my life. Felix is an amazing little guy. I’m so incredibly grateful and blessed to be his mommy. He has taught me so very much already, and I’m sure he will continue to teach me more. The bond is strong now, as I feared it would never be. Thank goodness.

I’m so lucky to have been able to stay home with him and support his extra needs. If I’d had to work or if I wasn’t as involved as I am with him, we may have missed the issues and it could have had much more lasting effects on him overall.

I’m even luckier to have an amazing husband supporting not only Felix’s needs, but me, my needs, and my dedication to helping our son. Jarrod and I make a pretty phenomenal parenting team. There’s no one in the world I’d rather have as my partner in life. He has supported me through all the struggles, listened to all of my venting, and done everything he could do to help in every way. He’s shared in all the joys and triumphs, with just as much excitement. He’s the best husband, father, and man I’ve ever known.

Now the regret and resentment is completely gone, as it has transformed into bliss. We made the right decision to have a baby. Felix makes the most perfect addition to our family. All the older kids adore him, and I feel like his presence is bringing us closer as a family as well. Something we all have in common. I am enjoying watching his personality develop and shine, and I am hopeful and excited for the future with Felix in it.

Appointments and Evaluations

Since my last update Felix has had 4 more appointments: a sedated MRI, a feeding/speech evaluation, and intakes for physical therapy and occupational therapy.

The MRI was on September 5th. Jarrod and I both went with Felix that day, and we were scheduled to arrive at 8:30 AM. Felix was to be without food or milk for 4+ hours at the time of his test, which was scheduled to begin at 10:00 AM. We arrived on time, got checked in, and things went very smoothly.

Tired and hungry, just waiting for his MRI.

Once Felix was taken back to the nurses, things went pretty quick. He got examined, prepped and an IV started, just in time for the MRI to be ready. Just before they took him back, they injected the sedation med. it was weird and unsettling to see him go from active, happy baby to asleep in mere moments. But I knew he was in good hands. The test took about an hour, and when they brought him back in he was just barely starting to wake up. Jarrod and I were there talking to him as he regained consciousness. Within about 30-45 minutes he was back to being happy (once he was able to have some mommy milk). We were told it would be a couple days before we got his results, but before the business day was over we got the phone call. Everything looked normal! Big sigh of relief!

For Felix’s feeding/speech evaluation, I took him and Evan came along. Jarrod was working. I took Felix in hungry, knowing they would want to see him eat. She sat him in a high chair and used the puréed food I brought to feed him on a spoon. He was very attentive, happy, and eager to eat. He leaned forward with his mouth open for bites, and ate very well. The therapist listened to his swallowing sounds, watched his mouth movements and body language, and told me that his feeding skills are right on track with his gross motor skills. She had no concerns, and did not recommend continued therapy at this time.

For Felix’s physical and occupational therapy appointments I took him alone. I am very thorough on keeping Jarrod, who is an amazing provider, in the loop with all the details of the appointments. For his physical therapy, the therapist evaluated Felix and said his Hypotonia is mild, and really Felix’s muscle tone is on the low end of average. He said it takes more work than the average person for Felix to move his body, but physical therapy will certainly help. He wants to see him weekly for now, with exercises to do 4-5x per day at home.

For his occupational therapy, the therapist played with him a little and said anything she wanted to do for Felix at this point would overlap with physical therapy. Since insurance won’t cover anything overlapping in 2 therapies, she said she didn’t have a reason to continue therapy at this time. However she’s leaving it open-ended and “as needed” just in case he needs help with small motor skills in the future, which hopefully he won’t.

It’s only been 2 days since we started doing the physical therapy exercises at home, and already Felix is showing signs of improvement. He’s using his arms a lot more already.

Holding himself up on his arms!

Beyond the tests and therapy, Felix also has really become a lot more aware of the world, interactive, social, and communicative. I don’t know exactly what has changed for him, but Jarrod and I are both extremely thankful for it. He’s so much more happy and fun, and it’s amazing to watch him thrive and grow. We have a much more positive outlook for our little guy now.

Still to come: an EEG and neurology consultation, GI consultation, blood/genetic test results, ear exam and eye exam. It’s a wait to get in with all the specialists so it will be a couple more months for GI and neurology.

Felix is 5 Months Old!

Felix is 5 months old, and boy is he growing and changing! He’s finally over his colic, though a few tummy troubles remain sometimes. Eliminating formula and giving him 100% breastmilk seems to have helped quite a lot, but sometimes whatever I eat affects him pretty strongly. He sees a specialist for his tummy troubles next week to see what we can do about it.

He finally smiles regularly, though I can’t often catch a picture. He giggles fairly regularly too, mostly at things that slightly startle him. He gets very bored sitting in the house, and has zero interest in TV or anything on a screen. He LOVES water now, and enjoys playing in his wading pool and the bathtub often. He would much rather be outside than anywhere else. He thinks the grass is cool, and likes kicking his feet in it.

He does very well with tummy time now, and has started rolling from front to back. He still needs some help with back to front, but he understands how to do it with a little help. He’s pretty good about sitting up with support, but he won’t always do it. He will “wilt” if he doesn’t feel like sitting up. He still doesn’t nap much or well, but he usually sleeps well overnight, as long as his tummy isn’t hurting.

He loves lots of direct attention by singing to him or playing with him. He still isn’t grabbing at toys or reaching for things much at all, but I work with him on it often. He babbles quite a lot, telling us lots of stories.

Overall, he’s doing a LOT this month compared to before. He’s his mom and dad’s little sidekick, and is so much fun to spend time with. His colic really made him miserable, and now that he’s turned a corner with it, his true personality is shining through. It’s a whole new world, and it’s a great one!

Milestone Concerns

Anxiety is not my friend, never has been. Nor is sitting at home with Felix day after day being totally immersed in his fussiness while Jarrod works to support our family. I see other babies in my birth month group on Facebook doing all the typical milestones for Felix’s age either on time or ahead, smiling, giggling, going out and doing fun things with their families. I look at Felix… and he’s behind. Not behind by far, but enough that I tend to dwell on it. And his fussiness generally keeps us home, making me feel trapped. I’ve spent many hours (most days) trying to keep him appeased. Usually with little success, until this past week. This past week I decided two things.

First of all, rather than be frustrated and resisting the reality of Felix’s temperament, I decided to accept and embrace it. This is who he is and it won’t be changed. He’s my buddy anyway, no matter what. So I’m doing my best to go with the flow.

Second, rather than dwell on all my anxiety over his milestones, I downloaded an app on my phone called BabySparks. I’ve been using it to do developmental activities with Felix every day. I’m putting my worries to work by working with him to develop the skills in which he is behind. Just in the last five or six days I’ve already begun to see improvements. Which is keeping him active and happy with the benefit of also easing some of my fears.

Tummy time, cuddles, a popsicle, and a Bumbo seat!

I never really thought about milestones or any such thing with my older boys when they were babies. I’m not sure why I’m so worried about it now. Back then I just went with what they could do at the time and we were all happy. They all reached their milestones when they were ready and are all perfectly fine teenagers now. I think maybe all the online comparisons are getting to me, not sure. But I’m tired of being worried. In a few months it will be a distant memory and Felix will be just where he’s supposed to be, after reaching those milestones on his own terms, when HE is ready.

As for some of the fussiness and tummy pains Felix still has lingering on, we have been referred to a specialist by his doctor. He sees the specialist in a couple weeks. I’m not terribly worried that something is wrong, but there are still things I’d like answers for. And hopefully it will makes Felix’s life a little easier to have those answers and potential solutions.

But as for this and everything else, we’re just taking things one day at a time.

Felix is 4 Months Old!

Felix is 4 months old today! He’s still a big fan of baths. He loves being walked around outside and looking at the trees around dusk. He feels most comfortable being held by daddy, or in the wrap with mommy. He’s still breastfeeding with formula supplements, but shows a strong preference for the breast now. Also, he shares a bed with us most of the time still, but we’re slowly transitioning him to his basinet, at least for part of the night.

He doesn’t smile much and doesn’t have too much interest in toys yet. We were a bit concerned about his motor and social development, and meeting milestones, but his doctor said he wasn’t concerned just yet. Babies all develop and do things on their own time, not by dates on a calendar.

He’s still dealing with a little colic, but I think it’s mostly because he doesn’t nap much during the day. Only 15-20 minute naps rather than 60-90 minute naps. By the evening he’s way too overtired and can’t settle in, so he cries. It’s not every night anymore, but probly about 1/2 the time. He’s also had 3 colds now, with awful congestion. So all the colic, gas and congestion for most of his life could be contributing to him not being a super smiley baby.

Life has to get better from here, right?

Fussy Baby Life

As of next week it will have been four months. Four months since Jarrod and I have had even a moment alone together. Four months since we’ve been able to go out and forget our worries for an hour or two. Four months since we have been able to relax and be husband and wife, best friends, and lovers alone. Four months since one or the other of us wasn’t holding a baby in our arms while trying to go about daily life.

Felix does not allow us to put him down. If we do, he cries. And cries. And cries. We have toys for him. A swing. A bouncy seat. An exersaucer. Play mats. The most time we get out of any of those is about 5 minutes. Then he’s crying again.

Many of our friends and family talked about how excited they were for Felix to be earthside so they could meet him and play with him. Even closer family members…. and here we are four months later and we have not had even one person around enough at all enough for Felix to get to know them. We don’t dare hire a babysitter because Felix would cry non-stop and we are worried about him getting abused or neglected by someone who has less patience for his cries and neediness. It’s just Jarrod and me.

As for me, it has currently been a year since I was well and whole and able to do things for myself and my family. Last May I was diagnosed with a severe post-breast reduction infection and put on medications that made me very sick. I was on them until November, with 2 surgical cleanings and frequent trips to doctors and having nurses in my home during that time. Once that cleared I was in my 3rd trimester and quite uncomfortably pregnant. And then Felix was born and he’s basically been tethered to me ever since.

Jarrod is admirably working his ass off to support us, his family. And I can’t help but be a little resentful sometimes that he gets to get away most days and get a break from being home. I am at home, day after day, with Felix and the other kids. I try to make supper and keep up with at least some housework. But most of my time is spent with a crying baby in my ear so I can’t even carry on a conversation. He won’t take naps while playing down in his basinet. He will in a wrap on me sometimes. But generally not for more than 20 minutes at a time. I have no visitors because we can’t even talk. No going anywhere to visit. No grocery shopping. I can’t make supper. The older kids typically fend for themselves for meals.

Then Jarrod will be home after we’re all in bed and I’ll do my best to make sure he isn’t woke up when Felix gets up 4x a night to eat (breastfed) and stays awake for hours in the middle of the night. He would gladly get up with Felix, but I know he needs rest so he can drive back and forth to work, and also work.

By the time he gets up, I generally barely have time to take a shower, wash bottles, and do a couple things around the house before he has to get ready and leave again and the whole cycle starts over.

We previously thought his issues were colic, but I no longer think that has anything to do with it.

When Jarrod has a day off, Felix doesn’t get nearly as fussy usually. Probably because the frustration isn’t such an issue on those days, because we can pass him back and forth. It is also on those days that some housework can get done, and we can go together and get groceries, and other necessities from the stores, and occasionally go out to eat. But always with Felix with us.

And to go along with it all, Felix is behind on many developmental milestones. He doesn’t smile much at all, and NEVER yet a big, open-mouthed smile. He’s giggled once or twice staring off into space. He won’t often look at anyone’s face. He doesn’t use his hands. He’s not remotely interested in toys, he won’t bat or grab at anything. So on top of everything else, I’m also worried about his development. I think in part, it’s that he’s generally unhappy and has spent so much of his life either in pain (colic and gas) or sick with a virus of some sort.

He does have moments of happiness. He likes baths. Generally for an hour or two in the morning he’s happy. When we leave the house and he’s already in a good mood he does well for a little bit and then just sleeps the rest of the time. He likes being carried around outside and looking at the trees. And he will have a few minutes at a time throughout the day of happiness. Occasionally (and I mean like once every 2-3 weeks) he will have an entire happy day. Those are absolute blessings!

I know this all sounds like one big complaint. It’s certainly a vent, but not necessarily a complaint. I love Felix with all my heart, and so does Jarrod. We would never in a million years regret having him. He’s a blessing. But this extremely needy crying stage cannot pass soon enough!

As a side note here: I acknowledge that I have postpartum depression. I am seeking therapy. Meds make me sleep and since I’m 100% responsible for the household most of the time, it’s not possible to live with that side effect. It’s hard to feel better, even with therapy, when I never get a break from an extremely needy baby. All I can do is take it one day at a time, one hour at a time, even one minute at a time, until this phase passes and we can move on with life.

Felix is 3 Months Old!

Today our big boy Felix is 3 months old! As of a couple days ago, he weighed 13 lbs 2 oz. He’s doing a darn good job of holding his own head up most of the time, and loves to watch all his surroundings. He enjoys kisses and tickles from mom and dad, and playing with his big brothers and sisters. He’s smiling fairly regularly, and has even let out a couple giggles. He is still breastfed, but still has a couple of supplemental bottles throughout each day. We’ve switched to soy formula and I have gone dairy-free, and it seems to have helped the gas pains considerably. He also now has reflux medication that has helped as well. He’s sleeping pretty well at night, but still wakes up every 2-4 hours to eat. This week he came down with his first cold, but seems to be getting over it quickly.

Felix is definitely a shining light in our life. He is such a good-natured and precious boy. He charms everyone he meets. We all love him so very much.