Thursday, January 28, 2010

1-Year Stats

This is Maribelle telling you how old she is ... one of her newest tricks!

As if Maribelle hadn't been poked and prodded by enough doctor's these past few weeks, she had her 1-year checkup with her pediatrician and cardiologist this week. Both appointments went really well, other than the fact that her ears STILL aren't clearing up. Our pedi is giving her another week on Augmentin to see if the fluid goes away in her ears, and if not, it means we have to try yet another, stronger antibiotic. I really, really don't want that to happen, so I've got my fingers, toes and anything else that can cross crossed! Her cardiology appointment was what I was most anxious about, and after an EKG (which she HATED), the doctor confirmed that the small hole in her heart has closed! We don't have to go back for another two years, which was awesome news.

The one thing that I really wanted to discuss with our pedi is the fact that Belle still isn't crawling, although she's cruising everywhere. She wasn't too alarmed and is giving our Little Miss two more months to see if she'll start walking on her own. I feel like we're always waiting when it comes to Maribelle's mobility ... it took her quite a while to get the hang of rolling, we're still waiting for her to crawl, and it seems like she's been cruising for MONTHS and still not quite getting the confidence to let go and take unassisted steps. Our daycare provider calls her Miss Safety because she clings on to everything for dear life and absolutely will not let go or stand on her own.

Here's what she's up to right now as a 1-year-old:

Weight: 19 lbs, 25th percentile
Height: 30 inches, 75th percentile
Head: 44 3/4 cm/ 18ish inches, 50th percentile

* She has seven teeth, and I'm pretty sure at least one more is working on making it's debut.

* She wears size 9-12 month clothing. In fact, 12 month clothing is still pretty big on her, but 9 month clothing is too short for our little beanpole.

* She loves to sing, play with books, rearrange our pantry and Tupperware, sort through Jeremy's record collection, chase Olivia, play tea party and just plain old make a mess. She's at the stage where she likes to take everything in and out of a container/cupboard/toybox, but of course she's much more interested in taking things OUT than putting things IN. She also really enjoys playing with shape sorters, but gets frustrated when the triangle just won't fit into the circle-shaped opening.

* She yammers like an old lady and says quite a few little words. This week she started telling us how an owl goes and how a puppy goes, and we're currently working on how a birdie goes ... very important facts to know as a toddler!

* We've been slowly transitioning her to milk, and she really seems to like it so far. She's still an awesome eater and claims mandarin oranges, yogurt, scrambled eggs, broccoli and any form of pasta as her favorite foods.

And, just a little fun fact to add, in ONE year of loving and raising our Little ButterBean we've taken (get ready for this .... ) a whopping 2,739 photos! And that doesn't include the countless video files that are also sucking up all our hard drive space. Needless to say we've been doing a bit of media asset management to make room for another year of adorable photos of our Little Bean.

Monday, January 25, 2010

My Girl Wants to Party All the Time

Now that Maribelle is back to her pre-double ear infection self, we're continuing the birthday celebrations around here. (And on a side note, she had to be prescribed a SECOND antibiotic when the first one just wasn't cutting it. And might I add that she is the best medicine-taker around?! Her pediatrician warned me that she might not like the chalky, gritty taste, but such is not the case with this little girl! She opens her mouth so wide when we come at her with the little medicine plunger!) Anyways, back to the birthday discussion ... She enjoyed a bit more birthday love this past weekend with lunch at my aunt and uncle's house, where she noshed on her first bites of brownies and ice cream and opened a few more presents. Of course, I forgot my camera, so no photos to share :(

However what I DO have to share should make up for it. Here's a first birthday video montage that Jeremy put together for the Little Belles. (Gotta love being married to a photojournalist!)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Double Trouble

Yesterday was the first of the past five days that Maribelle actually started to feel better, so I'm hoping we're almost out of the woods with this cold/virus thing. We found out Saturday that she developed a double ear infection, so we quickly got some antibiotics in her system to help fight off the ickies and bring down her temp. She was recording temps in the 103s and was just plain miserable on Saturday, wanting to sleep and suck on her pacifier all day. But yesterday she made a big improvement, although she still wants nothing to do with solids, unless it's a cracker.

Here's how we've been entertaining ourselves the past few days.

Saying hi to Olivia, over and over and over:

And playing with the Ball Popper, over and over and over:

Friday, January 15, 2010

Hot and Steamy

So this is where Maribelle ended up spending most of her 1st birthday:

That's right ..... in the bathroom, sucking up all the steamy goodness her little congested chest could take (and shredding a whole roll of toilet paper). She came down with a nasty cold/virus in the wee morning hours of her birthday which ultimately put us back at the place where it all began one year ago on January 13th. No joke, we ended up making an emergency run to the same hospital where she was born -- on. her. birthday! Honestly, it was like that place had some magnetic force that was pulling us there. When we were driving there during the pitch black of the early morning, I couldn't stop thinking about how images of that place had been clouding my mind for WEEKS (months?) and that we were going right back to the place that had been giving me the heebie-jeebies for the past year.

Luckily everything was fine, and two hours and one dose of Motrin later they sent us on our way with paperwork that diagnosed her with the "common cold." I took one look at those words and instead saw "over-panicked rookie parents," which I'm sure is what the ER staff was probably thinking. But I can't help it, I worry about EVERYTHING when it comes to our Baby Belle and her health. Tuesday night/Wednesday a.m. she was having a hard time sleeping and was breathing kinda funny -- fast, shallow and hard -- so I called the pedi-on-call, and after some breath counting and examination of her chest, we decided to book it to the hospital to get her checked out. Turns out she was probably just breathing that way because she had a fever, sort of like the body's way of cooling itself off. So, now I know.

Three days later and Maribelle is still running a fever off and on and battling whatever it is she has. She's so congested and goopy and snotty and just plain icky. We followed-up with our pedi, who confirmed that it was just a virus, but urged us to keep a close eye on her (done and done!). Again, totally blaming daycare on this one. The two other little kids in her daycare came down with the same thing, however she seems to have gotten hit harder. So now our house is wafting with the fumes of Baby Vapor Rub and bubbling with the sounds of a Winnie-the-Pooh vaporizer. Tissues fill the trashcans (and the waistbands of my pants -- It's my favorite place to stash them.) and a thermometer is always within arm's reach (yes, I check her temp like every hour, seriously). And the gray hairs just keep coming, and coming, and coming.....

** I feel the need to clarify that the Motrin box you see on the floor is just that --- a box. The actual medicine bottle is/was safely out of Belle's reach.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Birthday Belle

Happy 1st Birthday to the beautiful light in our life, Maribelle Rose!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Birth Story

Something I've been meaning to post for a long time is Maribelle's birth story. It would have made more sense to post it about 12 months ago, but honestly, just recounting parts of the story is enough to give me an anxious stomach. So here it is, in all it's glory. I apologize for the length, but I'm hoping someday that Maribelle will read this herself and know just how she came into this world.

Throughout most of my pregnancy, I had a hunch that Baby M was going to come early. There really weren't any signs that I could point to, but for some reason I just had a feeling. Call it maternal instinct, I guess. I'll start the story on Monday, January 12th, when I was just barely 35 weeks pregnant. That whole day at work I felt "off" and went home that night with stomach troubles and a massive headache. Even though I was feeling pretty yucky, Jeremy suggested that we put together and "play" with all the new baby items we received at our baby shower over the Christmas holiday. So that night, we put together the Pack n' Play (which was delivered earlier that day), the stroller and the car seat. In fact we took tons of pictures so that I could do a blog posting about all the preparations we were making for baby. It was so exciting and made everything feel so real, that it actually made me forget about how awful I was feeling. So after taking a bath to help relax some persistent Braxton Hicks contractions, we went to bed.

At 5 a.m. I woke up to use the restroom, and that's when it happened -- my water broke, in all it's water-breaking glory. I immediately started to freak out. I had Jeremy call my doctor, and she told us to be at the hospital within two hours. So we frantically ran around the house getting everything together (luckily my hospital bag had been packed for weeks!) and got to the hospital within an hour. We got checked in fairly quickly, and after a short exam, the doctor confirmed that we were indeed having a baby that day. I remember the rush of emotions being so overwhelming. I was excited, nervous, impatient, worried, stunned and an itty bit afraid (ok, maybe a lot afraid). I couldn't believe that just a few hours earlier I had gone to bed with thoughts of work filling my head, only to wake up with much, much bigger things to worry about.

The rest of the labor was basically a blur. My aunt came to join Jeremy as a labor coach, and I was so grateful to have the two of them there -- they are probably the two calmest people I know. I wasn't having any contractions initially and thought I would try going "au naturale," but once the Pitocin started kicking in and the contractions started coming, I knew there was no way I could do it without an epidural. So I got one, which only ended up working on half of my body; the right side of my body experienced the wonderful numbness while I got to feel every last contraction on the left side. After progressing pretty quickly and pushing for about an hour, Baby M was born at 3:27 p.m. on Tuesday, January 13th, weighing 5lbs, 8oz.

One of the most unforgettable moments for me was when the doctor told us that we were the parents of a beautiful baby girl! I was so shocked and overjoyed, that I immediately started bawling. I was convinced that we were having a boy, but was elated to find that we in fact had been blessed with a little Maribelle Rose (and I was so excited about the name we had chosen!). That moment confirmed for me that not knowing the sex of the baby for nine months is probably one of the coolest parts of being pregnant. It made for THE MOST exciting, thrilling and beautiful moment of my life. I wouldn't trade that moment for anything.

After I got to hold Maribelle for a quick moment, they started cleaning her up and checking her out. Jeremy stayed right next to her the entire time they examined her and automatically took on the role of a doting Dad. Because Maribelle was born early, members of the NICU staff were in the room to assist in the exam, and initially they thought she was fine and well enough to go to the Well Baby Nursery. In fact she scored 9s on both her Apgar tests. But a few minutes later, they noticed that Maribelle was grunting with every breath. So they gave her to me for another quick minute before they whisked her away to the NICU. They initially told us it would only be about an hour before they either brought her back to us or let us know what was going on. So after an hour passed without any word, I started to worry. Jeremy eventually went to check on Maribelle, and that's when they told us that she was experiencing Respiratory Distress Syndrome, or RDS, and would have to stay in the NICU for a few days. Once my epidural finally wore off, I was wheeled over to the NICU to see Maribelle again and was able to hold her for a few minutes longer. And this is where my memory starts getting foggy about what all transpired. I remember being completely overjoyed and happy to see her again and to take in every last detail of her that I didn't have the chance to look at when she was first born. I also remember being scared to death about not knowing what the next few days would hold for our little girl and crying the entire time I got to hold her.

When we had to leave her in the NICU that night and return to our hospital room without our baby, I just remember how crushed I felt. It was a feeling I hadn't felt before -- my heart literally ached at the emptiness that I felt knowing that I wasn't pregnant anymore, yet I wasn't able to be with the baby we had been longing to meet for the past 35 weeks. I didn't sleep at all that night and just tossed and turned and paced our hospital room. And unfortunately, that night wasn't the worst of it, as Maribelle ended up having to spend two very long weeks in the NICU.

Her RDS ended up getting much more severe in the first three days, and they ended up administering a synthetic form of surfactant to her lungs via intubation (surfactant is a sort of lubrication that keeps the lungs inflated during breathing. Some babies don't start producing it on their own until 37 weeks, which is why Maribelle experienced RDS). She also received a round of antibiotics for an infection and had to be put under the bili lights for jaundice. Poor baby was hooked up to so many machines and spent most of the time in one of those little incubator boxes. Jeremy and I stayed in the hospital four nights, and then had to travel back and forth two to three times a day to visit Maribelle while she stayed in the hospital. Although my hands were tied and my role as mom was put on hold for a few weeks, I faithfully pumped breast milk as earnestly as I could. It was all that I could do, and I felt so proud to be able to drop off bottles of milk to the nurses. At that point it was one of the few things I could do to fulfill my new role as mom. Every time we approached the NICU doors, though, my heart would start pounding in fear of what new problem we had to face that day. There would be good days when we'd get to hold her, or give her a bath, or see those beautiful eyes of hers, and then there would be bad days when her oxygen saturation had to go back up to a higher level and we were only allowed to touch her through the arm holes in the incubator. While I was a nervous wreck most of the time, Jeremy was the complete opposite -- cool and confident that everything would be alright. Jeremy would sit there and read nursery rhymes to her through the incubator windows or sing to her one of his silly songs. He could sit there for hours just looking at her, glowing like a proud papa. During Maribelle's last week in the hospital, my mom came to stay with us and literally kept me sane. She cooked, cleaned, accompanied me during hospital visits and told me that everything would be alright (she went through the same situation with my sister Jamie, who also had to stay in the NICU for two weeks due to underdeveloped lungs). If it wasn't for Jeremy and my mom, I think I would have had a nervous breakdown and been placed in a hospital myself. The nurses that we had at the hospital were also amazing, and I truly believe there is a special place in heaven for those women. They were so patient and so willing to answer our millions of questions. And they treated Maribelle like a little princess, dressing her up in girly outfits and putting bows in her hair.

(This is one of my favorite pictures. It was the day before Maribelle was discharged and the first day we were able to hold her without any wires or tubes up her nose. One of the final tests that Maribelle had to pass was being able to take all feedings by breast or bottle. So the NICU staff gave us a room to ourselves for the entire day so that we could feed and hug her in hopes of bringing her home soon.)

After two long weeks, Maribelle met all the benchmarks that the NICU set for her, and we were finally, finally able to take her home with us and treat her like a real, normal baby. Aside from a heart murmur, she thankfully doesn't have any lasting problems or issues that need to be followed in the years to come. That's not to say I don't still worry about every little thing and recount her birth story over and over again. I swear some days I can still hear the beeping and honking sounds of the NICU monitors and smell that sterile hospital smell, as if everything just happened yesterday. But looking at her now, you would never know the crazy two weeks our little family went through back in January (although one look at the gray hairs on my head should give you a clue). There are moments when I look at her big, beautiful eyes, her perfect little button nose, her pouty little mouth and her adorable little baby butt and remember those days, and it just makes me appreciate motherhood and our beautiful little girl that much more.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Better late than Never: Resolutions

Although we’re already eight days into the new year, it’s not too late to make resolutions, right? Good. Because this year, I’m hoping that recording our resolutions on this here bloggy blog for everyone to see instead of jotting down our list on a piece of paper that might (almost definitely) get lost and/or thrown in the trash (possibly after I’ve broken each and every one) will provide the accountability we need to actually get our butts into gear. So here they are, our household resolutions.

Improve our family’s eating habits: We used to be really careful about what we ate before Miss Maribelle entered our lives. We used to purchase almost strictly organic produce, meat and dairy, and shopped with a greater awareness of what we were eating and where it came from. Our old eating habits are a stark comparison to the 2.2 seconds of thought I gave my McDonalds breakfast meal on my way into work this morning. My how things have changed! Now that we have less time and money, the landscape of our fridge and cupboard includes a whole lot more microwaveable meals, boxed pasta dishes and food that was bagged/boxed/packaged who knows how long ago! It's not uncommon for me to go days without eating a fresh piece of fruit, and I most absolutely did eat two ENTIRE boxes of Little Debbie Christmas Cakes all by myself this holiday (Dear Lord, please tell me they have pulled those off the store shelves because I’m not sure I have the willpower to walk by them if I see them again). For our own health and for the health of Little Miss Belle, our resolution is to go back to some of our old eating habits. We need to find a middle ground between shopping exclusively organic and letting a few things slide (for cost and practicality’s sake). It’s still important for us, and especially for Maribelle, to purchase organic dairy and meat, and we’ll try hard to purchase only organic versions of the “dirty dozen.” This doesn’t mean we’re going all hippy dippy health nut, 'cause momma still needs a Little Debbie fix every once in a while! 

Cut down on spending and budget wisely: This may or may not jive well with the previously mentioned resolution, but, we need to spend less and save more (oh organics, why are you sooo expensive?!?). Now that I’m working part-time and have to write a sizeable check every week to our daycare provider, it is muy importante that we learn how to budget and spend less. We’ve never had to worry about money before, so it’s been a bit of a tough road in cutting down our expenses and coming to terms with the fact that we can’t go out to eat, buy the latest clothes and gadgets, or take amazing vacations. Our ultimate goal for the year is to sell our townhouse and purchase a single-family home in the area (which is outrageously expensive!), so any strides we make toward following a budget will put us that much closer to our dream of not hearing our neighbors run up and down their stairs anymore. 

Devote more time to our hobbies: I used to spend a lot of time doing the things I love, like knitting, embroidery, cleaning and organizing, baking and reading (major nerd alert!). I rarely do any of those activities anymore, and I miss them. Doing those activities kind of made me feel like me, ya know? They gave me a creative outlet and a chance to relax and zone out. Same thing goes for Jeremy, who is a regular old renaissance man of hobbies. Between brewing beer, cooking, sailing, gardening, playing and recording music, working out, bike riding and kayaking (these are just a few of his hobbies!), he was always busy doing something. And he is still busy all the time, except now his free time is spent running errands, cleaning or entertaining Maribelle while I run errands, clean or entertain Maribelle. I guess you could say parenting has become our main hobby (and that's ok! We just need more of a balance).

Spend more time with friends (and make more friends): This one is a tough one for a few reasons. One, we don't have all that much free time together as a family, so what little time we do get, we like to spend together. And two, we're still dealing with twice-daily naps and a 7:30 bedtime for the Belle, so we don't have the most flexible of schedules. But seriously, we have been lacking lately in the friend department. People had always told us that "oh, you'll meet tons of people through your kids," but I haven't seen any evidence of that yet. Or in the cases where it has happened, it's a major struggle to find a time or day that works for both parties. Maybe once Maribelle is old enough to start playing at playgrounds and gets involved in extra-curricular activities, we'll have more opportunities to make parent-friends. Because until then, how do you exactly find friends with kids? I'm not sure, but I'm still listing this as a resolution, because I miss spending time with other people!

And I would totally add "Exercise More Often" as our final resolution, but let's be honest ... that one doesn't stand a chance in my book.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Birthday Bash

While Maribelle's birthday is still eight days away, we had a birthday blowout with friends and family when we were in Ohio for the holidays. I originally wanted to have a small get-together, being that she won't remember anything and all, but after I thought about it and considered the tough start she had in the beginning, I decided there was no better reason for celebrating and doing it big -- 75 people, catered food, the whole she-bang. And I'd say things went pretty well, thanks in large part to all our family who helped us get the place set up and organized the day of the party. We had a happy baby, yummo food and didn't experience any major mishaps. And I now have a whole new appreciation for all those parties that our parents threw us when we were growing up. It takes so much work (and $$$)!

So now that my first kid party is behind me, here's what I've learned:

A) Balloons are kinda a big waste of money. They're festive and fairly cheap, but seriously, I spent close to $50 to have balloons for a grand total of three hours. They looked great on the tables and provided the height I was looking for, but we popped each and every one of them about 15 minutes after the party was over.


B) Opening presents on our own time, at home, was the best decision we made. I kept debating whether or not we should open them at the party, but seriously, the pile was massive and there was no way people would want to sit through that. And plus, it would be everyone watching ME open the gifts, not Maribelle, and that's a bit anti-climactic. Instead we opened just a few presents at the party and took our time opening the rest the following day. It was organized, it was calm, it took about two hours and we actually got to enjoy the process rather than rush through it in order to end the party on time. MUCH more relaxing.


C) Parties for your kids are so much more enjoyable than parties for yourself. We've had our fair share of wedding showers and baby showers, and those always stressed me out! I can easily say I enjoyed every second of showing off our beautiful little girl at her first birthday party and I can't wait to do it again next year (however on a much, much smaller scale). Now, bring on the photos!!!