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This is the third in a four part series.

It was the day before the Mayor gave up veganism. I was 34 weeks and two days pregnant with the Bunny and we could not wait to meet him. We were baby crazy!

Despite all of our preparation, our doctor had insisted that we take the labor and delivery preparation class offered through her office (she didn’t have much confidence in Hypnobirthing preparation). We couldn’t bear to sit through another multi-week class, so we signed up for the private tutoring option (in our case, the doctor was probably right about the lack of actual “preparation” involved in the hypnobirthing class – it was kinda funny).

That morning, the teacher arrived early and taught us everything you never wanted to know about childbirth. We practiced breathing and she told me that I should sunbathe topless to prepare my nipples for breastfeeding (too bad I never got to follow her advice). With two hours of doctor-approved private tutoring behind us, we were officially ready to give birth.

That night we went to dinner with our friends Greg and Bridget. Before we left I looked online for restaurants that offered vegan cuisine for the Mayor. We all settled on a Thai place in Pacific Beach (a notoriously colleg-y/spring break-y/potentially sketchy area). We had been there before, and thought it was cool because of the tables that allowed you to sit with your feet basically in the floor.

We should have known better.

Greg, Bridget, and I all ordered chicken pad thai and the Mayor ordered vegan. I remember feeling a little bit bad during dinner, but nothing noteworthy. But just a few hours after going to bed, I woke up SICK. Ever had food poisoning? Yeah, like that. Bad. And I was 34 weeks pregnant. Good times.

I called the on-call doctor and she assured me that the baby would not be affected. She told me to stay hydrated and monitor kick counts.

The next day was the day the Mayor gave up Veganism. It was one year ago today. It was the best day of our lives and the most terrifying day of our lives. I was still sick. I called the doctor again around 5 a.m. and she again assured me that the baby should not be affected by my sickness. But as the morning went on, I began to worry about kick counts. They were just barely under textbook “normal,” but they were way under what I knew was normal for the Bunny.

Mother’s intuition.

Oh yeah, and Remember that doula I hired? Well, I hadn’t asked her anything during my whole pregnancy (just sent her email updates). I understand that she is not the doctor, but she is supposed to be a support. I decided to call her and tell her what was going on. I asked if she thought I should be pushing more to go to the hospital. She blew me off and told me she was sleeping.

I decided I needed to stop worrying and just do something about it. I called the doctor back again and told her I thought I should come in. Because it was a weekend, the office was closed, and I would have to go into the labor and delivery unit at the hosopital. We packed up and brought our hospital bag with us….just in case. We had no reason to think we would be meeting the Bunny that day, but it seemed like the thing to do. I felt silly about going to the hospital, but thought it was better safe than sorry. I was a mother now. I had to take care of my Bunny.

When we arrived they hooked me up to the monitor and immediately saw the Bunny’s heart rate dropping. Suddenly a C-section was planned. The Bunny was six weeks early, which meant there was a chance his lungs might be underdeveloped, but there was also a good chance he would just need a little help. Before we went into surgery, the Anesthesiologist bought us a disposable camera (our camera wasn’t in our hospital bag). I told the Mayor to stay with the Bunny. The doctor held my hands and put her forehead against mine while I got my epidural. I was completely calm. Why was I so calm?

The surgical team gossiped and small talked during the C-Section to keep us calm. Suddenly our little boy was in the world. We all held our breath. And then he cried. And we cried. We were so relieved. So happy. I have never felt such joy. We had our bunny and he was healthy. They laid him on my chest and the anesthesiologist took our first family picture with that disposable camera.

family picture

And then they took the Bunny away and the Mayor went with him. We thought he just needed a little oxygen…a little help breathing. They took me back to my room and I called our family and friends and told them the Bunny had arrived and was doing great.

But suddenly he wasn’t doing great. It was a blur. It was confusing. Had we misunderstood? He wasn’t responding the way they thought he would. I went to visit him and I couldn’t believe what I saw. I couldn’t control the tears, the sobbing. He couldn’t control his breathing. The level 2 ventilator wasn’t strong enough and made him look so uncomfortable. His chest caved in and out like he was struggling to survive. It was the most terrifying thing I’ve ever seen. At that point it was possible that my baby would die.

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The next day the Bunny still wasn’t responding to treatment. They started asking me more questions about what I had eaten that made me sick. In the middle of the night, the doctor knelt by my bedside and woke me up to tell me that the Bunny would be transfered to a different hospital. He gave us a consent form for a blood transfusion. The Mayor left to go to the new hospital and I went to visit my boy before the transport team took him.

After his first few days of hospital living and complete terror, the Mayor was once again a meat eater.

On Friday I took the day off and decided to go on a field trip to the New Children’s Museum with the Bunny. Because he was still under one, he was free, and with a military discount, I was only $5 (regular price is $10 for everyone over one). The Bunny is still a bit young to fully enjoy the museum, but for $5 it was a great time. We started out in the toddler room which is set up as a forrest with trees, pillows shaped like rocks, fake grass, mushrooms growing from the ground, and leaves hanging from the ceiling. The Bunny was a little timid at first, but eventually started crawling around in the prickly “grass” and banging on the “rocks.”

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Then we moved on to the pillow room. Oh the pillow room….a child’s fantasy! The floor of the pillow room is lined with mattresses and blankets and the room is filled with pillows in the shape of tires. The older kids bound around the room in one big pillow fight. The Bunny tentatively climbed from tire to tire, but I think he had just as much fun as the “big” kids.

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(I cleaned his hands thoroughly after this activity because I am crazy like that).

We ended our visit in yet another room of pillows – this one filled with sunlight.

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We spent about an hour there, but it looked like older kids would have even more to do. There are employees stationed throughout the museum organizing arts and crafts activities (the museum considers itself a contemporary art museum as well). The best part was an old beat up Volkswagen bug on the front patio that the kids were encouraged to paint. The museum supplied aprons and painting supplies and let them go at it. We will definitely be back when the Bunny is old enough to do that! They also have a cafe with organic to-go food. All in all a great place to spend a few hours with kids in San Diego!

If you’d like to grab some breakfast before your visit, try Richard Walker’s Pancake house. Its right next door.

Recently, Heather Spohr at The Spohrs are Multiplying asked her readers to help her prepare for a speech she will be giving to doctors and nurses of the NICU.  She asked those of us with NICU experience to explain ways that NICU doctors and nurses could better care for our children and help us parents deal with the trauma associated with long-term NICU stays.  

I am very lucky to be able to say that our experience with the NICU staff at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego was extremely positive (or I should say as positive as that experience can be).  I can’t imagine anything more traumatic than watching your newborn (or your child of any age) sedated and on life support, struggling to survive.   During the first few days of the Bunny’s NICU stay we could not even touch him, let alone hold him.  We were completely dependent on his NICU caregivers.  We were at their mercy.  

And they were wonderful.  We spent every possible hour in the NICU.  The nurses and nurse practitioners were our friends during otherwise lonely and isolated days.  They consoled us when we cried.  They gave us their chairs to sit in.  They taught us how to care for our fragile little boy.  They patiently helped us learn to change his diaper, take his temperature, and eventually feed him.  They helped me learn to breast feed (which is very difficult with a preemie) when the lactation consultant wasn’t available.  They displayed his special blanket just so.  Most of them made sure we knew what was going on and volunteered information that we didn’t know how to ask for.  

The Tiny Tiny Bunny and his favorite nurse

The lactation consultant made the impossible possible.  She instructed me, positioned my pillow, gave me hope and made sure that the nurses gave me an opportunity to try breast feeding every day.  The respiratory therapists, physical therapists, and occupational therapists, worked tirelessly to help our boy.  Whenever possible, they tried to plan visits for times that we would be there, so that we could be involved with his treatment.  

When the Bunny first arrived, and he was very sick, the Mayor had a meeting with the neonatologist at the bedside.  The next day, the NICU social worker set up another meeting with us and the neonatologist and made sure all of our questions were answered.  The neonatologist was great.  She was not rushed with us and went so far as to discuss things we should be aware of regarding the Bunny’s future development (things like precautions against RSV, adjusted age milestones, and a trend towards delayed kindergarten starts for boys).  Once the Bunny was starting down the path of recovery, we didn’t see as much of the doctors (though we heard the Bunny was one of the doctor’s “favorites”).  If we were there when they were doing rounds, they always volunteered updates and asked us if we had questions.  We always knew we could ask for another formal meeting through the social worker, but the nurses kept us so well-updated, we didn’t feel like we needed it.

The social worker also volunteered to write a letter to the Mayor’s boss explaining that he needs to be in the NICU with the Bunny.  She had it ready the next day.  Whenever we saw her in the hall, she checked in with us, and made special times to meet with us to make sure we were getting our questions answered.

The only time we felt marginalized or disrespected was when we were checking into the NICU.  To get into the NICU, you  have to use the phone on the wall to call the nurse at your baby’s bed and ask if you can come back.  You then wash your hands and tell the person at the desk that you have already called back.  They then push a button that opens the doors to the NICU.  Often the people sitting at the desk ignored us while we stood there or seemed annoyed or bothered by our need to get in.  If we wanted to ask a question at the window during times the NICU was closed, they were really annoyed with us. This was upsetting.

So, what would I suggest to other NICU workers?  Understand that parents are at your mercy.  You have all of the information about their child, you have the access to their child, you are responsible for the care of their child.  This is not the way the parent-child relationship was meant to be!  Treat the children and parents with respect.  Facilitate their relationship. Treat them as parents and children – not just patients.  Volunteer information to parents.  Try to think of ways you can help them.  Has the parent brought in a cute outfit, a hat, or a blanket?  If not, have you told them that they can?  If they have, use it.  Is the parent changing diapers if that is possible?  If not, have you told them they can?  Have you shown them how to navigate the IV lines?  Have you shown them how to navigate the system?  The child’s health is always most important, but when possible, even if its just for a moment, try to see beyond the monitors and the tubes and think about the bonding and comfort of the parent and child.  The smallest gestures can make a huge impact on how the parents and child will they go on with their lives when they leave your NICU.

Thank you to our NICU workers for taking such good care of us and our Bunny!  We can never thank you enough.

This is the second in a four-part series. Sequels to follow.

I had an extremely easy pregnancy with the Bunny.  No morning sickness, no concerns about my health (except for that time I gained six pounds in a month – whoops).   No concerns about the Bunny besides a brief Cystic Fibrosis scare when we found out I was a carrier.   I never even got sick.  Everything was looking great.

I was also an insanely happy pregnant woman. The Mayor even bragged frequently that I was the best pregnant woman ever (Yes, he’s a smart man). I didn’t cry my entire pregnancy except one time when I told the Mayor that the Bunny’s room needed a second coat of paint and he announced You are the mother of my child and I love you, but I HATE YOU. (Not so smart that time.)

The Day Before the Mayor Gave Up Veganism

The Day Before the Mayor Gave Up Veganism

I also followed every pregnancy rule to the letter. I did not drink smoothies or fresh squeezed juice. No lunch meat, no alcohol, no soft cheeses. What else is there? Well, whatever it is, I followed it.

We had taken every pre-baby class imagineable – Redirecting Children’s Behavior, Infant CPR, Daddy Bootcamp (for the Mayor), Hypnobirthing (planning “natural” birth), Bringing Home Baby, etc. You name it, we took it.

We had hired a doula and written a birth plan. I heard somewhere that the longer the birth plan, the more likley the c-section, so I had even made sure to keep it to one page. (Yes, I followed ALL the rules.)

I was 32 weeks pregnant and everything was going along perfectly.  We were getting anxious to meet the Bunny, so I had a little talk with him.  I told him that he was invited to join us in the world on October 4th (two weeks before his due date and after I planned to start maternity leave).  I thought he was on board with that plan.

Around that time I told my Vegan co-worker (she is known in many circles as “the Vegan,” so she would not be offended by this over-simplification of her identity) that the Mayor was intrigued by her moral position on the matter. The following week, she arrived with a plethora of Vegan propaganda literature for the Mayor’s cosnideration. I brought it home and the Mayor went Vegan the next day.

The worst part was that the Mayor’s moral revelation was creeping into my head too. Suddenly, I was thinking, What gives us the right to store animals in inhumane conditions and pump them full of antibiotics only to kill them and EAT them. But even worse, I started thinking, What gives us the right to store animals in inhumane conditions and steal their eggs and milk them with a MACHINE against their will?   This was the scarriest part because, OMG, I wouldn’t be able to get pastries at Panera! Luckily, I was able to postpone this dilemna, because, for God’s sake, I was 33 weeks pregnant, and that just wouldn’t be good for the baby, right? Right.

Little did I know…the day before the Mayor gave up Veganism, chicken would be my demise.

Stay tuned…

Dear Sweet Baby Bunny,

You amaze me every day. Last night the three of us had so much fun playing together after your bath time. Your dad laid on the floor and I sat nearby. I gave his fuzzy head a quick vigorous rub, and then you did the same. I gave his cheek a gentle kiss. You opened your mouth and did the same. Then you hovered over him and “played the dad drums,” raising your arms in the air and then hitting his back over and over again. Then you hugged him.

You are such a sweet boy, but you know a stranger when you see one. When some well-meaning baby lover tries to get in your face and make goo goo noises, you immediately give her squinty serious eyes or a great big grouper lip to let her know who she is messing with. Your exclusivity secretly makes your dad and I feel kind of special.

You are amazingly strong. When you crawl, you look like Michael Phelps in the 50-meter freestyle. As you cruise around the room, you pop up and down over and over again, sometimes holding a squat or a plank pose that would make Jillian Michaels cry. You heave large toys and books out of storage bins, and then back in when you decide it is time to clean up.

When you get frustrated, you make the funniest noises. Sometimes you raise your hands over your head, scrunch up your nose, open your mouth wide, and sniff sniff sniff through your nose over and over again. Other times, you grunt and strain like you are in a strong man competition, as if you are saying, Hey! Listen to me!

Sometimes you make sweet sounds. In a soft voice, you quietly say, ahhhhhhhhhh. Other times, you make goofy noises, like zerberts or like the rolling “R’s” in the Spanish word perro.

You love to watch things fall. You throw peas and cheerios from your high chair and look over the edge as they join those who have gone before them on our stained carpet. When I shower, I put you in your pack and play with some toys. You then proceed to hold each toy over the edge, while you look at me with mischievous eyes. You tentatively let each toy leave your hand. You then quickly look over the edge as if to confirm that gravity is still in effect. Last night, you tossed your dump truck off the balcony and into the living room. Good thing we got that balcony baby-proofed!

Usually, you move very quickly and impulsively. But when presented with a stack of blocks, you stop and consider the situation for a moment. You then (very) carefully attempt to remove only the top block from the stack. You like a challenge.

When you were a newborn, I used to lie on the floor next to you and read you book after book. You would just lie there and stare at the colorful pages as I turned them. Now, you are usually too busy for books. When you are willing to indulge me, you quickly flip the pages to get to the one you like. You chew on the paper or cardboard until it begins to disintegrate. I think you like eating books more than peas.

Sometimes when I am eating an apple, I let you chew on it too. The other day, I let you eat some of my pluot. You loved it. You grunted when I took it away.

This morning before I left for work, I held you and said, “kisses. kisses.” You sweetly opened your mouth and gave me a big slobbery kiss on the cheek. I love those kisses.

I hope you have a good day today. I can’t wait to hear your sniffs and rrrrrs tonight!

Love,
Mom

This is the first post in a four-part series.  Prequels and sequels to follow.

Two days after he gave up veganism, the Mayor wheeled me down the white hallways decorated with butterflies and tributes.  My legs and hands shook, but luckily my stomach was still numb.  We washed our hands with scalding hot water.  I had never cared so much about clean hands.

The Mayor already knew the ropes.  He picked up the phone by the sink and called the nurse.  Its the Bunny’s parents.  Can we come back?  We showed our bracelets to the woman behind the window.  The bracelets displaying our son’s name.

The NICU at our labor and delivery hospital was small with mostly healthy little feeders and growers.  This NICU was huge.  I saw babies smaller than my hand, weeping parents,  lights and bells, mothers caressing their babies through the tiny holes of sterile incubators.

We got to the Bunny’s bed, and I cried.  He had his very own nurse who was caring for him, and only him.  As I cried, she rubbed my back, and said, I can’t even imagine.  This woman I had known for seconds, said the perfect thing, the only thing that could be said.  I asked her how the Bunny was doing.  

Well, he’s a very sick boy.  

I didn’t know what that meant.

I sat next to my baby, and I cried.  The drugs made him sleep as the machines around him made his chest rise and fall.  We watched every number on the screen above him, trying to find some meaning in them, nervously awaiting intervention when bells rang and whistles blew.  

We could not hold our Bunny. We could not even touch him. So, we sang to him and read to him.  Again, I cried as I read The Little Engine That Could.  I tried not to cry for my little boy, but I could not stop.  So, I read Hop on Pop. As I read Seuss’ rhymes, I tried to control my voice, for fear that if my voice sounded too fast and rhythmical, bells would chime as his heart rate soared.  He seemed so fragile.

Every three hours I left his side to pump milk, hoping for the day that he would be able to drink it.  Every afternoon and every evening, the NICU closed for a few hours. We wandered the white halls, sat in the gardens, and ate donuts in the cafeteria, waiting for the doctors and nurses to save our baby.  At night, I slept next to my pump, while a stranger cared for my very sick boy.

Every Sunday I suggest an easy picnic recipe – something light and portable, perfect for some outdoor family time.

The Mayor had to work yesterday, so the Bunny and I met up with him for a lunchtime picnic. I brought along this New Three Bean Salad and a bag of Zucchini Muffins (we got zucchini and green beans in our CSA box last Sunday). I made some chicken to go along with the salad (because the Mayor is once again the anti-Vegan), but forgot it at home! I also realized after the fact that I was supposed to chop the green beans (I don’t follow directions very well – this will likely be a recurring theme here). Smaller pieces of green beans probably would’ve made all the ingredients come together more effectively, but it still turned out to be pretty tasty! As for the little Bunny, he had some Cheerios and also tasted some small pieces of green bean.

New Three Bean Salad with Zucchini Muffins

New Three Bean Salad
This recipe is slightly adapted from the August issue of Sunset Magazine.

Steam 10 oz frozen shelled edamame for four minutes. Add one can drained and rinsed chick peas and steam with edamame for four more minutes.

Mix zest of two lemons with 1/4 cup lemon juice, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. sugar. Add edamame and chick peas to lemon mixture.

Separately steam 10 oz. green beans (chopped to 1 in. pieces) for four minutes. When done, immediately immerse in ice or run cool water over beans.

Add green beans and 6 diced green onions to edamame chick pea and lemon mixture.

Serve within one hour.

Zucchini Walnut Muffins
This recipe is available on www.cooks.com.

In large bowl combine 3/4 cup whole wheat flour, 1 cup all purpose flour, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1 tbsp. baking powder, 3/4 tsp. cinnamon, and 1/4 tsp. salt.

In a separate bowl, whisk two large eggs, 3/4 cup milk, and 1/2 cup melted butter. Add 1 cup shredded zucchini (about 2-3), 1/2 cup dark raisins, and 1 cup walnuts.

Pour liquid ingredients into dry ingredients and mix just until combined.

Bake at 375 for 20 minutes.

I’ve mentioned that I am a very amateur photographer.  My subject?  As I’m sure you’ve guessed by now, my Little Man is usually the target of my insanity.  Before he was born, I decided to go all out and get a Cannon EOS 40D.  I rationalized this purchase because professional newborn photos (think wedding pictures, not Babies ‘R Us photo studio) would cost even more.   (Yes, I am amazingly frugal, I know.)

And, I really do love my camera.  

But, I still haven’t taken the time to “bond” with my camera.  There are so many features I know nothing about.  True, sometimes pictures just need to be taken to capture a moment.  But sometimes, I want beautiful light-filled pictures that do justice to the Bunny, the Light of my Life.  

On occasion I end up with a picture I love. Usually this is just a happy accident. All credit to my feverish paparazzi like clicking.  

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My first car was a maroon 1987 Honda Accord that I got for Christmas shortly after my 17th birthday. It was a hand-me-down from my step-mom and it had a manual transmission. I had learned on automatic cars, so I had to learn to drive it before I could have it. Talk about motivation! I drove stick until we moved to San Diego when I decided I just didn’t have the nerve to let out the clutch while stopped at the top of some 80 degree hill.

What was your first car?

First Car

There is something you should know about me, but please don’t tell anyone.

I am an introvert.

Some people who know me would be surprised by that. I am not overly nervous or shy, and can be quite outspoken at times. I have a small group of good friends, most of whom I have been friends with forever, and most of whom do not live within driving distance of me. With the Mayor, the Bunny, my parents, my siblings, and my friends, I can be talkative and silly. I can be myself.

I appear confident at work, and I can even handle myself in a big group of people. But here’s the thing – I don’t like to. I hate parties where I only know one or two people. I hate networking. I hate making small talk. It exhausts me. I would rather hang out with the Mayor and the Little Man (or even by myself) than go to happy hour. Is that so wrong?

I have been reading about other Mommy Bloggers who went to Blogher last weekend with thousands of other women. From the sound of it, gossip, cliques, competition, secret parties, and judgment were rampant. Blogher sounds like my worst nightmare.

Of course this introversion has drawbacks when you move often. We have lived in San Diego for over two years now, and still have few people who we would call friends. Before the Bunny was born, this did not concern me. I thought the Mayor and I could handle everything on our own. In fact, I specifically told my mom that I did not want her to visit during the first few weeks after the Little Man was born because the Mayor and I wanted to have the time to figure things out ourselves and bond with the Tiny Bunny.

And then, wham! The Tiny Man arrived six weeks early by C-Section. The first day, he was in the NICU at the hospital where he was born. Then at 4 a.m. the next morning, the Neonatologist came into my hospital room and woke up the Mayor and I to tell us that the Bunny was being transferred to a different hospital because he needed a higher level ventilator. My mom arrived that morning, the Mayor’s dad was there the next day, and my Dad the week after. We could not have survived without them.

Luckily, the Little Bunny made it through, and was at home three weeks later. We were so glad. This is what we had been longing for those three long weeks. But by the time he was home, our parents were gone, back to the other side of the country. And there we were. In San Diego. Just us and our Bunny. Our Bunny who slept for twenty minutes at a time. Our Bunny who had reflux and colic. Our Bunny who could not be exposed to germs. Our Bunny who hated hates his car seat. Of course, our parents did come to visit here and there, but they live 2,000 miles away. We were mostly on our own.

Now that we have the Little Man, I wonder if my introversion is a liability. I wonder if we need to push ourselves to make new friends wherever we go. I wonder if we actually can’t do it on our own. I wonder if we need community. I’ve been trying. But its hard.

About Me

Mom to a one-year-old Super Bunny. Amateur cook and photographer. Tiny living enthusiast. Lawyer who would rather write about muffins than motive.

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