Thursday, July 29, 2010

Growth Spurts

Ellie is getting huge. In a good way, not in an out-of-control way. She's starting to make up for lost time. This makes me a happy Mommy.

At her check up appointment yesterday, we learned that our little lady has gained almost 2 lbs and 2 inches in the past month. I'd been suspecting a growth spurt was in the works, given how hungry she's been. She can really put away that formula, let me tell you.

Ellie weighed in at 14 lbs 14 oz (she's finally doubled her birthweight) and now ranks in the 50% percentile for weight. That's a jump up 20%. She's also sprouting upwards and now measures 26 1/4" tall. That's the 80% percentile for height! Basketball practice anyone? Or maybe ballet class?

Anyhow, she's starting to feel less and less like a baby when I hold her. I still can hold her, thank goodness. But man, is she getting heavy! It's amazing to watch her grow and catch up. Most of the doctors said it would be a year before she was caught up to other babies in both height/weight and development.

As I watched her this morning, I knew they were wrong. She rolled over, reached in front of her, grabbed her pacifier and put it right into her mouth. I've seen her do this before, and I'll see it many times again, but Mike and I agree. It's the best sight there is.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Freelance Learning

As many of you know, I've been working part-time as a freelance writer since last fall. It's kind of nice - I pick the jobs I want to do, work when it's convenient, and spend my life teetering on the edge of many, many deadlines. So ok, the deadlines aren't so nice... but it's actually a very fulfilling kind of work for me.

One of the perks is what I'm learning from all of this. See, one of my jobs is for a UK-based content generating site. Companies hire them to get written content for their websites. I get paid per short article but all of the work is anonymous. A little weird, yes, but it's exposing me to some pretty cool things. For example, I write many of these article using the UK English setting in Microsoft Word (per their work orders). I've been spelling 'colour' and 'favour' and I find myself using Brit-like expressions at times... and words like 'lovely.'

It's like writing with a British accent.

But more than that, I have to do a tremendous amount of research if I'm going to write 'spot-on' articles. I've learned about silver commodity exchange markets, questionable websites selling women's 'unmentionables' to gentlemen friends, cherry picker rentals, and the foreign exchange market. This week, I wrote 16 articles about bathrooms... specifically, shower stalls... or 'shower enclosures' as the Brits say. I did not know I could write 16 articles about shower stalls, but somehow, I made my deadline.

My other writing jobs span a wide range of topics. For Associated Content, I focus on Beauty articles. This week, I wrote about hair care. For Suite 101, I write about women's health and allergies. Sometimes I write about dogs, but the Pets Editor is a pain in the neck, so I try to avoid that section. At Demand Studios, I have to pick articles from a list. Sometimes I end up with weird ones like this week's Fish Tank Mold Allergy article. For Nifty Magazine, I write about beauty and skin care for models. I know. And then at ShopGala, I write about shopping and saving money, then sometimes I review products or stores.

I'm all over the place.

Sometimes, I also dabble in press releases (as a consultant) and "image management" blogging. But I'm not supposed to talk about that one. I signed a contract once.

Anyway, that's what I do. In case you were curious. It may seem a bit frantic at times, a little all over the place. But one day, this is going to let me stay home with my kids and work on my own schedule. Not bad. And I actually get paid what I'm worth -- I write something, I get a check. Pretty straightforward.

One day I'll breakaway from the madness of being pulled in all of these directions and just focus on my niche: beauty and skin care. But for the time being, I don't mind writing that article on Allergen Swab Tests. Cuz hey, it makes me a student every day of my life.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Ellie at the Zoo

Last week, we took Ellie to the zoo for the first time. Yes, she's five months old. No, she had no idea where she was. Mommy and Daddy liked to pretend that she did, however, and that she was LOVING it.
Here are some of her escapades with zebras, ostriches, and gorillas...

Ellie's New Accessories

When Ellie was at MGH, still connected to the feeding tube, central line, and all kinds of drugs, I used to joke with the nurses that she had a lot of accessories. I'd pick her up from the crib and say, "Ok, Ellie! Let's make sure we have all your accessories!" I guess it was my way of making such horrid things acceptable. You gotta keep perspective sometimes.

Now, as we rise to a new challenge and a new type of accessory, I can't help but smile at my (seemingly) laid-back attitude toward things like IVs. Hearing aids pale in comparison, I can tell you that. And since Mike ordered the special clear-moulds-with-purple-glitter variety, my daughter's new accessories are at least stylish, if nothing else. Isn't that what we all long for, ladies? Style + functionality?

Anyway. We're getting the hang of this. These things require special care and constant vigilance. She wears them a few hours a day and really seems to enjoy them. Yesterday, she learned how to take them out. Oh, joy. She also learned that they can go in her mouth. Yes, the hearing aids that are not supposed to get wet... those make an excellent new teething toy. Once we thwarted disaster, we had a new appreciation for just how fast those tiny hands can work.

We still have a few kinks to work out. For example, remembering to bring them with us when we go new places. That would be a good start. But it's only been a week. The central line took some getting used to, and so will these. When I see how happy she is to hear us better, though, I don't mind this new adjustment to our lives one tiny bit!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Irrational Fear

There was a spider in my bathroom this morning. It ruined everything.

For those that aren't aware, I have a terrible fear of spiders. I'm not entirely sure where this comes from, but I have vague memories of a spider crawling across my face during my childhood. I've tried to block that out. It still gives me the creeps.

This fear has deeply rooted itself into my psyche. Those that have read my fiction work might recall the short story "To Kill a Spider" where I spend several pages of prose wrestling with this fear. I have also passed the fear along to one of my favorite characters in my novel ReGifting Ava - Kimmy is petrified of the little menaces.

Technically, I'm arachnophobic. But saying (or typing) that word makes me think of the movie Aranchnophobia... and even though the spiders lose in the end, that shower scene (and the damn LAMP) still scare the bejeezes out of me.

So this spider in the bathroom this morning was cramping my style. I saw it from the shower... it was perched at the tippy top of the wall above the toilet. A toilet I had recently used. Where I was sitting beneath this carnivorous, ravenous (obviously) being. Honestly, I could've been eaten alive. I suddenly felt incredibly vulnerable... standing there, naked in the shower, with this monster only feet away.

I rinsed faster than I ever have in my life and sprinted out of the bathroom. Mike was downstairs feeding Ellie, there would be no quick death for this guy. And I'll be damned if I was gonna climb up on that toilet, face it eye-to-eye and bludgeon it to death (as it deserved). No. I was going to keep an eye on it and go about my routine.

This plan went well, and I was fully dressed and on my way... Until I remembered that I hadn't brushed my teeth yet. Dammit. I stood outside the bathroom and wound my arm around to the sink to grab my toothbrush and toothpaste. The idea of brushing my teeth - just having my mouth open- in the same room as a spider made me cringe. I brushed in my bedroom but I had to rinse in the sink. I crept back into the bathroom, eyes plastered to the unmoving spider (brown, but not a brown recluse... trust me, I've memorized what all the really poisonous ones look like), and tried to act nonchalant while I rinsed. Instead, I felt like the unsuspecting gazelle, visiting his everyday watering hole, not realizing a crocodile is ready to eat him alive. (Do crocodiles eat gazelles? I don't know.) And for the record, it's hard to rinse your mouth in the sink if you're simultaneously trying to look up.

So I survived. I sent Mike to slay the demon spider and then tried to go about the rest of my morning. But I couldn't help feeling just a little like an idiot. A spider? Come on, Steph. Be a woman. Kill the damn thing yourself. What if Ellie was in danger?

Ok, I guess if Ellie were being threatened by the know, at fang point or something, I would definitely kill it. Maybe that unlikely scenario will cure me forever. Until that happens, however, I will continue to hit the panic button every time I see 8 legs.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Adventures in Applesauce

Tomorrow, Ellie will be five months old. (I know!) My mind is blow by how fast time is passing... but also by the fact that five months doesn't sound like that long... Time is relative.

Anyway, we've been exploring the world of food with Ellie. She's been getting rice cereal in her bottle for a little while now, so we started with a bowl of that. She made a mess. Also, have you ever tasted formula with rice cereal in it? I made that mistake. It is disgusting.

So we moved on to applesauce.... where she also made a mess. At least she seems more enticed to learn how to coordinate this new kind of swallowing. She also thinks it might be nice for her to hold the spoon. I can already hear her: "Mommy, I do it!"

For the record, Ellie holding the spoon never ends well. Unless you consider splattered applesauce on your furniture and clothing a good end result.

We'll get there.

After a few days, she's still mostly curious (check out those eyebrows) about the whole thing. What is this? What I am supposed to do with it? And why can't I just have a bottle? But every day she seems to get a little bit more applesauce from that spoon.

Next week: sweet potatoes!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Lemme Check Just One More Time...

I'm obsessed with checking on Ellie when she's sleeping. I don't know if it's residual from her extended stay in the NICU (you know, when she couldn't breathe) or if I'm just a worrier. Would I be like this had she been born under "normal" circumstances?

Probably, but we'll never know.

She sleeps through the night, sometimes passing out around 7 or 8 pm. We won't hear a peep until about 6 am (I know, crazy huh?) because Ellie likes her beauty rest. If not for the monitor that Lish bought us, I'd probably be in there even more. As it is, I peek in about 5 times before I go to bed. Then, of course, every time I wake up in the night.

Last night, I tried to fight the urge to go and check on her. I heard her stir on the monitor (probably rolling or turning) and I immediately snapped to attention. The following dialogue played in my head.

Crazy Steph: "My baby moved. What if she rolled over and is smothering herself? I have to check."

Logical Steph: "Don't be ridiculous. You know she likes to sleep on her tummy. She'll be fine."

Crazy Steph: "She can't sleep on her TUMMY! What about SIDS?"

Logical Steph: "If you roll her over now, she is just going to roll over again before the morning. She. Likes. Her. Tummy."

Crazy Steph: "I cannot be complicit in this. She cannot sleep on her tummy when I'm conscious. If she does it on her own, and I'm asleep, I know there's nothing I can do. But if I heard her rollover and didn't fix it, and something happens to her... I will never forgive myself."

Logical Steph: "You're insane."

Crazy Steph: "You're the one talking to yourself!"

And then I get up and check her. So I guess I have to ask all the other mommies out there if this ever goes away? At what point do you say, "Screw it, sleep on your tummy!" and stop panicking? Ever? Or was my mom secretly checking on me in the middle of the night until I was 17? (weird)

Until that day when I can rest assured my baby girl is ok sound asleep in her crib, there's nothing quite as reassuring as those little baby snores and the slight rise of her tummy with every breath. Hell... maybe I just like seeing her that peaceful. Who can blame me?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Heart of Hearing

The mind is for seeing, the heart is for hearing.
-Saudi Arabian proverb

After all that she went through, it should come as no surprise that Ellie is at risk for many problems in the future. Her eyes were just the tip of the iceberg. For the next few years, we'll constantly be on the look out for developmental delays, physical problems like cerebral palsy, and even mental disabilities. In truth, we won't really know what the full effects of her treatment will be for about 7 or 8 years. It's scary to think about all of these things, but when you're with her it's easy to forget.

Ellie is socially perfect for her age. She's babbling, smiling, giggling... you would never know. There are days when I look at her and think, "Wow! Is this the same baby?" Medical professionals have said the same thing--looking from her chart to her and back again, trying to figure out how we got so lucky. Or blessed.

She's my miracle baby. That's all I can say.

This past week, we've been dealing with another "problem" she will be facing for the rest of her life. Ellie has hearing loss in both ears, a result of damage to the nerve from one of five risks she encountered during her treatment. We've known about it since we left MGH, but were waiting for her follow-up in July. Since April's test, there's been no change - no better, but no worse either. I guess that's a win :)

She still needs hearing aids, which we're getting at Mass Eye & Ear tomorrow. Mike picked out a stylish pair for her. I'm excited to see what happens when Ellie hears all the little sounds she didn't know about before. But I'm also worried that she will be scared by it for those first few days. How do you explain that to a five-month-old? There will not only be new sounds, but the old sounds that she knows will be a lot louder. I don't have any hearing loss, so I can't even begin to imagine what this will be like.

In the meantime, we're learning some sign language to help bridge the gaps. She seems interested but it's too early for her to be able to remember them or sign back. Mike is having fun learning the alphabet, colors, numbers, etc. and he gives me a nightly recap of what he learned that day. I'm learning sign language by osmosis, I guess, because he keeps doing things like complementing my outfit in signs. Or asking me what I want for dinner. Out of necessity, I'm picking it up :)

I guess I'm just thankful that Ellie is going to get the chance to hear a little closer to normal, but I can't help worrying about her. Will kids make fun of her hearing aids? Will she struggle to learn language? Will she be able to sing songs and play games with other kids? I know she is already stronger than I am, so I know she'll be fine. But I'm learning that when you're a mom, you want you baby's life to be as easy and enjoyable as possible.

Instead of mourning the hearing loss, or the vision problem, or the scar on her neck, I'll be celebrating them. My baby is here, she can hear, and she can see. She's beautiful and, in my opinion, she's perfect.

Mommy's Wake Up Call...

I guess I have some catching up to do on my blog! So much for not disappearing for days on end... I went ahead and ditched you all again!

Seriously, I've got to get it together!

But this time I have a harrowing tale to tell, I assure you. Somewhere in the midst of that Fourth of July weekend I just wrote about, I started feeling weird. Without going into too much detail (I'm sure you don't want to know!) I couldn't quite convince my bladder that it was empty. I thought it was UTI, a conclusion I came to on Monday night. In the morning, I made an appointment, trudged over there, got my prescription, and thought we'd call it a day.


More abdominal pain--the tear-inducing kind--and we're back at the doctor's. Different doctor this time, who is actually listening to what I say. It's a nice change. Anyway, she is like "Bladder infection? I think we should check for something more..." Apparently, all the urine cultures in the world won't save you from a CatScan if they keep coming back negative. No infection anywhere. Bloodwork - negative. CatScan - negative.

I guess that's good news, since we ruled out kidney stones and tumors... yikes. It was still frustrating to be sent home without a diagnosis and a "Hope it gets better!"


This was starting to feel like an episode of "House." For real. So on Thursday I went--surprise!--BACK to the doctor. Another new person, who at least spoke to the person who saw me the day before (are you following this?!) and was super nice. She decided it must be diverticulitis, even though the CatScan said no such thing. "It's a mild case... maybe." The only way to prove the diagnosis was the get ANOTHER dose of radiation, which my ovaries aren't up for right now. I would like to use them again some day. So I took my super duper antibiotics and went on my merry way.

And I continued to drink copious amounts of Gatorade. The pain was background noise now and I was starting to get a little Google-happy... For the record, never Google anything medical. Ever.

On Friday, I saw my actual doctor--or at least, my OB--who wanted to make sure this wasn't some kind of fallout for obstetrical reasons. (Thank goodness they take c-sections seriously, at least.) It wasn't. Which was good.

Instead, he told me all about this awesome condition called "detrusor instability" or "stress incontinence." In layman's terms, I have been so stressed out that my sympathetic nervous system thinks it's cool to squeeze my bladder. You know, just cuz it's fun. I did not know such a thing existed. It does. And it is very real. And very painful.

So now I'm taking anti-spasm medication for my bladder (because I'm ninety-freakin'-five years old or something) and it hurts less than before. Of course, every time I get stressed (often) it starts to flare up (ouch). Oh OH and the best part? I also have IBS. This, too, flares up under stress.

Hooray for my digestive system! Hooray for my urinary system! My body hates me!

I, literally, have been prescribed chill pills. When your doctor says, "Take this pill for two weeks and do some yoga" it's not cool.

And THAT, ladies and gentleman, concludes my over-sharing for the day. It also constitutes one helluva wake up call.

The First Fourth

Ellie's first Fourth of July weekend was tons of fun! It was also excruciatingly hot, but somehow we managed. She HATES humidity, so keeping her cool (and in the shade - no baby sunburns here!) was a priority.

We started the party on Friday with a beach trip to Rockport. The weather was perfect! Ellie's first encounter with the sand was interesting. We're not really sure she knew what to do with it. She kicked at it a couple of times, then tried to squeeze it in her hands. One thing is for sure - she did NOT enjoy having sand stick to her! She mostly played on the towel, took a dip in the ocean with Dad (yikes!), then fell asleep for a nice long nap.

Saturday was HOT... we spent most of the day inside playing with Penny. Mommy fueled her addiction for "Forensic Files" while Daddy washed his car.

But on Sunday, there was a little breeze. Whatever the weather, we were headed out anyway. The annual Haddad July 4th party was raging when we got there. It was hot outside and in (except for the secret AC room.... where we spent a good chunk of our time!) Ellie was decked out in her patriotic attire (including her stylin' bib from Grandma!) Lots of Great Aunties & Uncles met Ellie for the first time. It was great to see everyone!
By the time we got home Sunday, we were pretty wiped. Monday was a nice, relaxing family day to recharge the batteries. All in all, a wonderful first Fourth weekend for my little princess!