Monday, January 30, 2012

Fun in the snow - or not

We had our first significant snowfall of the year a week or so ago and introduced Barrett to the fun of outdoor winter play.  Only I'm not so sure he thought it was fun....

It didn't start out on a good foot.  We pulled on the new snowpants, which I'd bought a long time ago and was happy we finally got a chance to use.  We talked up the fun in the snow and the new snowpants and boots.  But Barrett wasn't buying it.

Yes, I'm the mean mom taking pictures while her son is screaming. 

I finally got a smile from him and thought maybe it might turn out well after all!

Yeah, not so much.

Needless to say, this did not go well and the snowpants saw about 3 minutes of snow.  Oh well!  I am absolutely sure that we'll have more than one opportunity in the future to try them out again and I bet Barrett will end up learning to love playing in the snow.  As a Chicago boy, he'll have to!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Challenges We Face

Every pregnant woman anticipates the 20 week ultrasound with a sense of excitement tinged with nervousness.  There's so much relief to see that squirmy little baby on the monitor and to hear that everything is okay.  This pregnancy I was especially anxious to hear those words.

The day of Audrey's birth I was thrilled when they lifted her out, checked her over and told me she was perfect.  It was every mother's dream come true, to have a healthy baby placed on her chest. 

Since breastfeeding Barrett was incredibly rough at first, I was determined to have a better breastfeeding experience this time.  Everything seemed to be going fine in the recovery room. 
It was only later on in the day that something just didn't seem right.  Audrey kept bobbing on and off and was making strange noises while she was nursing.  I asked that a lactation consultant be called in to see us and make sure I was doing everything right.

When the LC came into the room, her first step was to check the baby over and make sure there was no tongue-tie or anything that could impede her ability to nurse.  She checked her and said "did you know she has a cleft palate?" 

I was shocked.  No one had noticed yet and thank goodness I was an experienced mother and knew that something in her eating wasn't right.  I cringe to think how long it may have taken to find out if I hadn't had the experience to sense that something was off.

The pronouncement caused some panic that night.  We could see the hole in the roof of her mouth whenever she cried and it didn't look good.  I was instructed to stop feeding her until we had her checked.  We made sure she was in the nursery to be monitored during the night in case anything happened with her breathing.   We anxiously awaited the neonatologist, who arrived around 3am to check over her and talk to us.  He gave us the good news that there was nothing severe wrong and we should continue to feed her as normal and just make sure she seemed to be eating okay.  Her pediatrician arrived in the morning to check her and give us more information on further steps.

I tried and tried to feed her but it just wasn't working.  I had to concede and give her formula twice, which I never once gave Barrett, just to make sure she would eat something.  

What is a cleft palate?
So many people automatically think a cleft palate is the same as a cleft lip, that it means the facial deformity with the split lip.  In many cases, an infant is born with both a cleft lip and cleft palate.   But a child can be born with either one or the other.  A cleft lip is visible but is in fact much less severe than a cleft palate, because these children can generally eat normally and repair is done early in the child's life. A cleft palate impacts eating much more and surgery is much more invasive.  Interestingly, more girls are born with a cleft palate but more boys are born with a cleft lip or cleft lip + palate.  A cleft defect is actually a fairly common birth defect, impacting around 1 in 600 or 700 births. 

Early on when the palate is being formed, for whatever reason the palate doesn't fuse together.  In Audrey's case, her palate is primarily in the back, in the hard part, with just a bit in the soft part of the palate. 

What does this mean?
What this means for us in the short-term is that I cannot breastfeed Audrey.  Because of the open hole in her palate, she can get the proper suction to eat normally.  It's equivalent to us trying to drink from a straw with a hole.  We can manage to get a little liquid maybe, but it's difficult and frustrating.  She won't be able to get adequate nutrition that way.  I tried to feed her this way but it just wasn't working.  So what I have to do is pump and bottle feed her with special nipples (that cost a lot of money unfortunately!).  Also, due to the open palate, liquid flows up easily into her nose.  We have to feed her upright to try to minimize the likelihood of milk going into her nose.  It's awful when milk comes pouring out of her nose during a feeding and she begins to choke.

She also has difficulty hearing due to this cleft palate.  She failed her hearing test in her right ear repeatedly at the hospital.  This is due to increased fluid in her ears from the palate.  We took her to an ENT at about 2 weeks post birth for a repeat hearing test and the doctor didn't even do the test, since both ears were so full of liquid he was sure she'd fail in both ears.  Her hearing is as though she's underwater.  She does respond to noises, so I know she can hear somewhat, but it must be muffled by all the liquid.  She is more prone to ear infections because of all this fluid.  We will be getting tubes put into her ears around her 3 month birthday. 

I always said breastfeeding for over a year was one of the things that was most difficult and rewarding and that I was most proud of having accomplished.  Let me tell you, breastfeeding was nothing compared to exclusively pumping.

Pumping is horrible.  It was horrible when I did it twice a day for Barrett when I went back to work and it's even worse doing it seven times a day now, with a newborn and toddler at home with me.  I dread every time I look at the clock and see that it's time to pump again.

But I am determined to provide Audrey with breastmilk for as long as possible.  Because of the likelihood of ear infections, I want to try to minimize the risks as much as possible by providing breastmilk, which reduces the odds of ear infections.  Also, because of the way that milk comes out her nose, I would prefer to have her drink milk, which is much more gentle than formula.  And overall, breastmilk is just the best source of nutrition for babies, so this will keep her healthier and provide her the best start to life that I can give her. 

Next steps
We are working with a cleft palate team at the local hospital.  We are lucky that a very well regarded team is at our nearest hospital, especially since there are only 7 cleft teams in the state.  It is comprised of a plastic surgeon, a speech pathologist, a geneticist and an ENT.  We meet with them regularly to assess her weight gain and eating.  They will insert tubes into her ears at 3 months and perform a surgery repair at around a year and replace the tubes at this time.  If all goes well, this will be the only needed surgery, although most children need subsequent surgeries.  Since she is not impacted at her gum line, this should reduce the need for subsequent surgeries and hopefully her teeth will grow in fine.

We were so sad to learn of Audrey's diagnosis.  It brought new challenges for us as a family that I had never even considered.  I am scared for the surgery ahead and cringe that the thought of my baby being put under and operated on.  But of all birth defects for her to be born with, this is a fairly minimal one in the grand scheme of things. It is repairable and shouldn't impact her life once we are able to get it repaired.  I am sad that I can't feed her normally, which was a big desire of mine.  But she is beautiful, is happy and is healthy and I wouldn't trade her for any other baby in this entire world, no matter how many trips we have to take to the doctors or how many expensive nipples we have to buy. She is more than worth it!

Thursday, January 12, 2012


1.  It was absolutely gorgeous yesterday.  55 and sunny!  We went to the park, sans jackets, and had a great time on the playset, which we hadn't visited in several months.  Almost easy to forget it was January...until today.  Snowy and 31 right now.  boo!

2.  Yesterday's conversation at Target, as I'm pushing a grocery cart with a 2 year old and newborn:

Idiot woman:  Can I ask you a question?  Are you pregnant?
Me, with confused look on my face:  No
Idiot woman:  Oh.  Well your kids are so cute, keep having more!
Me:  Well she's only 5 1/2 weeks old!
Idiot woman:  I didn't want to ask if you were pregnant, since that would be awful if you weren't!
Me, thinking, well then why did you??:  Huh.   


3.  This has been the month of doctors' visits.  Within a month we have:
   1 general pediatrician appointments for Barrett & Audrey (2 years and 1 month)
   1 dentist appointment for me
   1 cardiologist appointment for Barrett
   1 obgyn appointment for me
   2 specialists appointments for Audrey
   2 endodontist appointment for me (dental specialist)
Audrey is also going to be getting tubes put in the end of next month.
It's a good thing I'm not working right now!  It's crazy.

4.  We've been waking up Audrey at night to eat.  I'm just not confident she's eating enough during the day, even though she's growing and well past her birth weight, I'm sure.  Last night I didn't wake her and she slept 9 hours straight!  The girl loves her sleep!  I am thrilled about that but it makes me nervous!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Audrey - one month

You are one month old and an amazing addition to our family!  I can't believe you've already been in our lives one month, it has flown but yet in some ways it's hard to imagine our lives before you were here.

The most astonishing thing about you so far is how amazing of a sleeper you are.  I am stunned.  Even in the hospital you were a great sleeper and slept on me for hours night and day.  It hasn't changed.  I haven't let you go too long at night and been waking you up to eat, but the few times I have, you've slept 7 or 8 hours easily.  I'm pretty sure you'd do this every night if we didn't wake you up.  In fact, I don't recall more than once or twice where you've woken us up to eat at night.  When we do wake you up to eat, you barely open your eyes and are right back to sleep.  Some days I swear I don't see your eyes open for 12 hours straight.  I feel so spoiled and am hoping it lasts, but don't want to get too used to it!

You are a very mellow baby.  I wasn't expecting that, since you were so active in my stomach, but so far you've been very easygoing and calm, which is good with your whirlwind brother demanding so much time.  You like to just look around and watch us all.  You love your swing, like your bouncer seat and are calmed down by your pacifier.  You eat every 3-4 hours, around 3oz each time.

I wear you sometimes in the Moby and you seem to do okay with it.  I don't know if you love it but you do pretty well and I really like it so we'll keep at it.  It's really easy to take you places because you are so mellow.  We've been tons of places with you and you basically sleep the entire time. 

I just started putting you in the 3 month clothes instead of newborn and you look so cute in them!  There's still some extra room but I was ready for your adorable new clothes.  At your 1 month appointment you weighed 8lbs11oz and were 20.5".  So just slightly bigger than your brother was at his.  I love seeing your legs and belly starting to get some chub on them. 

Everyone comments on how alert you are and the eye contact you have.  You seemed to really wake up around 1 1/2 weeks and now are just watch everything going on around you.  You absolutely love the peacock toy and are absolutely mesmerized by it.  You were able to raise your hand to bat at it yesterday, which really impressed me!  You smiled for the first time at 3 weeks, on Christmas Eve, at me.  

I am so happy to have you, little girl, and can't wait to see how you develop every month!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A look back - Barrett's first birthday party

With the craziness at work that is always January for me and Tim, I never got a chance to write about Barrett's first birthday party.  So, much belatedly, here are the highlights of the first birthday party.

The theme was Winter One-derland and I used the colors turquoise and red.  I think it turned out pretty well!  With a December 23 birthday, it wasn't easy to come up with a date for the party, especially since all our family had to come in from out of town.  I didn't want to ask everyone to come in in December, with all the Christmas business, so we postponed it until New Year's Day, figuring that's usually a pretty quiet day for everyone.  Of course it meant Tim and I spent New Year's Eve taking down Christmas decor and hanging birthday garland, but oh well!


I made potato soup in the slow-cooker, ham and cheese grilled sandwiches (recipe here), meatballs in the slow-cooker, a veggie plate and dip, cheese and crackers, bread and hummus and the below penguins and igloo dip. We also had a hot chocolate bar, which was absolutely awesome.  We got both regular and white hot chocolate from Dunkin Donuts and set up a topping bar with chopped andes mints, crushed peppermint, marshmallows and wafer cookies.   It was turned out to be a highlight of the party for the guests and absolutely delicious!

Aren't these adorable?  Our little army of penguins and their igloo.  The penguins are olives with carrot noses and feet and stuffed with cream cheese.  The igloo is  a blue cheese/cream cheese dip, decorated with a cream cheese exterior.

 The cake - half chocolate/half vanilla with strawberry filling and buttercream frosting.  Yum!

And the smash cake for Barrett


I made these snowflakes that we had hanging around the house.

 and here's a close up

The month-by-month banner I made of our little boy.  It really showed his growth each month.  This was taken after he got a hold of it and ripped of the bottom 2 pictures.  
 And the banner I made and a few of the generous gifts he received!  I was in love with this banner and we kept it up to celebrate his birthday for a month or so afterward!

I also made some garland out of red, light blue, white and turquoise felt circles and had this hanging with ribbon over the windows and doorway, but didn't get a picture.  You can kind of see it in the kitchen window in the background of some of the other photos. 

Here's my new one year-old. 
 And to show off his shirt a little more!  Notice the snowman in the shape of a "1"!

Unfortunately half way through the party Barrett started to get really flushed and cranky.  After not being much better the next day, we took him to the doctor and he was diagnosed with RSV. Fun!  It took a really long time for him to recover.  I was sad that he got sick during his own party.

sad and sick birthday boy
We ended up doing his cake a little later in the week, after he started to feel better. He hadn't really had any sugar before his birthday, so he wasn't quite sure what to think of it.

Trying to figure out what this thing is in front of him

Trying it and clearly liking it!

The beginning of the end.  We had to pull the rest of the cake away before he either ate or wore the entire thing.

So there you have it!  It took a lot of planning and he won't remember a moment of it, but we had fun and it was a great celebration of his first year of life!

Sunday, January 1, 2012


 Audrey gave us her first smile on Christmas Eve and it was a beautiful sight!   I was able to capture her first smiles on camera tonight.  Such a sweet and happy little girl!

2011 - Year In Review

What an awesome year it has been for our family!  

January - we rang in the New Year with Barrett's first birthday party on January 1. Lots of family and friends gathered together at our home to to celebrate our little boy turning one.  This was a tough month, since both Tim and I were crazy busy at work and little Barrett came down with RSV, which we battled the effects of for months later. 

February - snowbound!  We also celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary with a too-rare date night.  Barrett took his first steps and started the craziness of being a walking toddler.

March - we found out we were expecting baby #2!  Barrett and I surprised Tim with the news one morning and we were so excited to start thinking of another baby joining our family.  We took Barrett for his first haircut, which now that I look back at pictures, perhaps we should have done sooner.
We also attended my sister's wedding in St Louis and Barrett and Tim were able to meet my grandmother.


April - we celebrated Easter with my parents

May - we officially told our baby news to everyone.  We celebrated Mother's Day with a trip to Starved Rock and enjoyed being outside after a long Chicago winter.  We also traveled to St Louis for Memorial Day, where Barrett went to a beach for the first time.  He wasn't so sure about the sand and water!

Proof we would do anything for our son

June - I went to my alma mater for a wonderful 10 year reunion.  We celebrated Father's Day with a trip to a car museum.  And the most exciting thing of the month was finding out we were having a healthy baby girl!

July -  We spent a lot of time outside in the backyard pool, enjoying the nice summer weather.  We went to my work party and, after a somewhat hesitant start, Barrett discovered his love of bouncy houses.  We also enjoyed the fruits (veggies?) of my labor as my garden started bearing delicious vegetables for us to eat.   Barrett started exhibiting more toddler-like behavior this month, which was a bit of a challenge, as meltdowns and tantrums became more commonplace around this house.  I visited his school for an ice cream social with his friends.

August - We took a family trip to a local zoo.  We took lots of outdoor walks and went to the neighborhood playground regularly.  Barrett really started becoming more playful, including discovering his secret hiding spot.  We began working on cleaning out and organizing our basement.  We never did create our hoped-for play area down there, but are very happy that at least it's organized now.

September - This was  a busy month for visitors, with both my sister's family and my parents coming to visit.  When my sister's family was here, we visited a train restaurant, which ignited Barrett's discovery of his love of trains. 

Tim sold his beloved Eagle Talon after much nagging a convincing argument was made, but Barrett enjoyed his turn in the car before it left our driveway for the last time.  Isn't she a beauty?

October - Fall arrived!  We took Barrett trick-or-treating for the first time.  We enjoyed a trip to the apple orchard/pumpkin patch. I realize now I never posted about our trip the the orchard.  Whoops!  We went with some friends of ours and picked a ton of apples and had a great time. 

We visited the local childrens' museum, where Barrett was mesmerized by the train exhibit.

November - My due date came - and went. My parents came up for Thanksgiving and we anxiously were on baby-watch pretty much all month. 

December - and the year ended with a bang and the arrival of our new daughter!  Audrey Katherine arrived on December 1 and we spent the month adjusting and enjoying her.   Barrett turned 2 and we celebrated his birthday and Christmas in St Louis.  Tim started a new job in downtown Chicago, which we've also had to adjust to, with the added commute time and the stress with starting a new job.

We said goodbye to 2011 with a wonderful dinner with great friends and were tucked into our beds, asleep at midnight. 

What a great, eventful and blessed 2011 it was!