Sunday, February 7, 2016

Adventures in Parenting After Loss - The First Month

Everett is officially out of the newborn stage and into the 1-month-old stage.  While it hasn't been perfectly smooth sailing for any of us, there also haven't been any huge issues.  We know we are lucky.

Everett Oberon Fiorani Thoma, 9.4 lbs and 21.25" at one month old.

It feels like forever since we went to the hospital at 38-and-change weeks pregnant.  People talk about time going by so quickly, but we haven't really had that experience.  It sort of feels like January melted away, but that was more because we weren't doing the normal things than that it went by quickly.

Everett's pretty good at breastfeeding, though he gets lazy sometimes.  In fact, his overaggressive sucking (and sometimes chomping) is probably to blame for the mastitis Elizabeth has.  The symptoms of mastitis started as just an ache in the breast, but a few hours later Elizabeth had a fever over 100deg F, the shakes, and was barely able to sit upright.  Thank goodness for modern medicine, because a dose of Tylenol and antibiotics later and she felt almost back to her old (still very tired) self.  Now we're working on having a consistent good latch.  Evie likes to have a shallow latch sometimes, and that's not great for any of us.

Even though it's going mostly well, it's still tough.  Feeding every 2-3 hours (still), with the occasional 4-hour gap, is a lot of time.  One of the NICU doctors told us, "breastfeeding sucks for the first two months, and then all of a sudden it's awesome."  We wouldn't say it sucks, but it is draining (no pun intended).

Breastfeeding can be pretty anxiety-inducing, because you can't really tell how much the baby is eating.  We just have to go by behavior, dirty diapers, and weight gain, which is tough (especially in the beginning, when we are still learning Everett's individual patterns).  After a month, it does seem like Everett's weight gain is right along the expected curve, so that's encouraging.  He's a bit on the small side (25-30 percentile-ish), but tracking right along that curve.  Today, he's up to 9.4 lbs.  How did we check?  Well, we use a luggage weight checker with Everett in the car seat.

Our growing lil' beastie.

Way back before Oberon was born, we never thought we'd be "those parents" who use monitors while their children sleep.  Well, now we have an Owlet and it's the only way we get any real sleep.  Knowing that a loud beeping sound will alert us if Evie's heartbeat or oxygen saturation veer too far from normal helps us relax just enough.  Elizabeth still wakes often at the first sound of Evie's cries, or just to check on him.  Chris is more of a deep sleeper.

We've hit a lot of milestones this month.  Chris is already back to work, leaving Elizabeth and Everett to have many hours of mommy-son time during the days.  First pediatrician visit, first bottle, first poop shooting off the changing table, first walk in the stroller, and many other firsts we're forgetting to mention.

Daddy give Everett his first bottle - 2/6/2016

Having Everett here brings back a lot of the grief for Oberon.  Holding him we sometimes have flashbacks to holding Oberon.  While they don't look identical, they do look like brothers.  Certain looks or angles, and it's like they are twins.

With Everett being one month old, he's only a couple days away from being older than Oberon ever was on the outside.  Although we won't know exactly what emotions will come those days, it hasn't seemed as intense as we'd thought.  In most ways, Everett is already older than Oberon.  Since Oberon was born so early, and was so sick, it already seems entirely different.  Oberon was much sleepier than Everett, and his alert time was almost never fussy.  Everett gets pretty fussy when his diaper is dirty, he's trying to poop, wants a pacifier, or just wants more attention.  Elizabeth jokes that it's all Chris's fault, since he's so picky about fabric and has such sensitive skin.

Even today is bittersweet.  It's Everett's one-month-old day, which is happy.  It's also Super Bowl Sunday, and last year on Super Bowl Sunday we took Oberon's ashes to spread at Uvas Canyon.  Thinking about that day still brings tears to our eyes and pain to our hearts.  Thinking about how our sons will never meet, never play together, and we'll never have a full family picture - all these things bring fresh grief to the forefront.

Our family on 2/7/2016.  Everett wasn't in a great mood for pictures.

Some people fall head-over-heels for their babies the instant they are born.  Chris felt this way for Oberon and Everett, feeling instantly connected the moment he saw each of them being born.  With Obie, Chris's had to follow him to the NICU and stayed with him until he was admitted and things had calmed down a bit.  Holding his hand for the first time, seeing his eyes, Chris was smitten for his son immediately without reservation.  He remembers finally going back to the room and telling Elizabeth how wonderful Obie was and how much he was in love.  It was very much the same with Everett, with immense love swirled into the wave of emotions in the delivery room.  It definitely feels terrible leaving E and e for the day when Chris has to go to work, but coming home to both is a joy every day, no matter what.

For Elizabeth, it wasn't that immediate with Oberon, and it wasn't that way with Everett either.  Sometimes love is more of a slow burn, and she hopes that's what's happening.  Maybe it's from parenting after loss, maybe it's being emotionally shocked with the NICU stay and not really recovering yet, maybe it's just how she is as a mom.  It's hard not to feel guilty.  Guilty about not cooing over Everett all day, guilty about having less time to focus on Oberon.  Hopefully there will be a balance someday, but right now it feels like the opposite of balance.  Not even really imbalance, just not enough of anything.  As Everett grows, she's hoping her love for him will continue to grow until it's bigger than she could imagine.  And also as he grows, she will be able to share his big brother with him, and have a little more time to focus on Obie.

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