Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Postpartum Depression

There.  I said it.

I get it.

There.  I said that, too.

While I'm in it, I don't like to talk about it, I don't like to draw attention to myself or what I'm going through.  After I'm better I can talk more freely.  Like now.  I'm better.  For the most part.  There's normal ups and down days in the life of parenting in the middle of nowhere when at times you don't leave the house or see a soul except your husband for days and days on end.  Where sometimes you forget who you are and become a bit of a zombie and lose any motivation to do anything other than take care of your kids.  Those days still happen.  Those are normal, right?

But the intense sadness, feeling alone, empty, pressure on your chest, wanting to do nothing but curl into a ball in the corner and cry and disappear?  Those days are all but gone.  They used to happen.  They used to happen almost every day, if not every day.

After I had Naomi I figured these things were caused by the long months of being cooped up inside (since I had her mid-October after being on bed rest for a few weeks before hand).  Then having a preemie baby kept me in for a few months.  By the time that was over winter was in full swing, it was January and why would I take my 3 month old outside, anyway?  I thought that when your husband says something like, "Is the dishwasher clean?"  Because he see's the massive amount piling up in the sink he assumes there is a clean load in there waiting to be unloaded.  Isn't that why there is a pile-up outside of the washer?  Probably not because I just haven't loaded after unloading, so there is an almost empty dishwasher waiting for all of those dirty dishes I haven't even bothered to rinse off because I can't stand to go in there.  So, when he asks that question, I hear, "Why haven't you been doing the dishes?  What do you do all day?  You don't have a job, but I do.  So why is the kitchen dirty?"  And I cry and cry.  He doesn't know what to do with a sobbing, hormonal woman sitting on the floor changing a diaper.

Naomi at 8 months old.

That first year after having Naomi was the hardest of our marriage.  It was a cake walk before kids!  And it wasn't the kids that made it hard.  It was me.  It was the PPD that came with the largest adjustment in our life together.

It wasn't until Naomi was 11 months old that Jaren came in one afternoon during lunch and we had another one of these episodes.  The one where he asks an innocent question or makes an innocent remark and I take total offense because I'm feeling quite worthless anyway and I cry and cry.

We talked about how he feels like he is walking on egg shells every time he comes in the house.  He doesn't know what will set me off.  He's afraid to ask where I put the remote for fear I'll cry and talk about how I know I'm a terrible housewife for leaving it on the other couch when I know he sits on the big one.  It's ridiculous, but it's real.

I knew I wasn't myself.  I didn't know how to get myself back.  I didn't know I could.  It was when Jaren said, "Something is wrong.  This is not you.  You are not my Whitney and we need to get you some help."  First reaction was that I didn't need to be on any medication.  That I could deal with it just fine.  Then I saw how tired Jaren looked and how he looked at me like I was a wounded animal.  I knew I needed to get checked out for him.  For Naomi.  For me.

First time Nae drank more than an ounce from a sippy.  On her first birthday morning.  Looks like I have a puff on my back....

We went in shortly after for Naomi's 12 month check up and that's when I first talked to my doctor about what was going on.  Explaining how I felt, how I would be totally fine then feel like I was buried in a pit of despair the next moment when my baby started to cry.  When he first mentioned those words.  Postpartum Depression I immediately recoiled inside.  Not me!  Never me!  I'm one of the happiest people I know!  I'm an optimist!  The glass is always half full!  Or totally full most of the time.  He started filling in the gaps that I left out with what it all entails; I had to admit he was right on target and he was describing me.

We decided to forgo medication at first and to try getting out more.  Doing more for myself and acknowledging the problem.  Working together; Jaren and I, to help me through it.

What is strange, is only a few weeks later I felt fine.  Those moments were almost all but gone.  I remember reading somewhere that PPD usually lasts about a year, then goes away.  Well, it was almost text book for me.

At dinner in Jackson Hole on my birthday 2 years ago.

When I was pregnant with Adalyn I was a little worried about it, but felt like I knew how to handle it knowing what it was.  I was going to take it one day at a time.  Then I had Adalyn unexpectedly early and went through that NICU experience I wrote about a few posts down.  That wasn't the best start and I found myself so quickly back in the daily grind of tears and despair.  The moments were just as bad, but they were fewer than with Nae.  I chalk that up to knowing what was going on, having a baby during the warm, sunny months and having a bright, smiling 2 year old around.  I immediately started exercising since I know that is one of the things that directly ties me to my moods.  I'm a happier person when I am active, in shape and fit into my clothes.  I had to take it easy for the first 5-6 months because I was trying to keep my milk up (I lose it really fast).

Around Adalyn's 3 or 4 month check up is when I talked to my doctor again about what I was going through.  I stress a lot with my babies and their sleep and eating.  Adalyn was not sleeping as well (or eating) as Naomi did.  I would sit in Adalyn's room holding a pacifier in her mouth while she cried and tried to go back to sleep because she was supposed to sleep another hour!  Noami did!  So Adalyn should to!  Aren't all babies the same?  They're not?  Yep, found that out the hard way.  I would cry and cry and bite my finger while wanting to scream.  I would lay on the floor while the swing was swinging and Adalyn was crying and cry and pray.  I begged for her to fall back to sleep. Not to mention the pleading for her to eat when she started to refuse to eat, bawling onto her little face feeling helpless because she would cry and refuse.  Then I'd bring out the bottle and she would eat happy as a clam! 

Adalyn was 4.5 months old here.  This was one of my favorite moments with her.  Right after she woke up, I would change her diaper and she would smile, coo and laugh at me.  She'd pick her feet up and put them on my cheeks and laugh when I kissed them.  It was something I needed after each nap because they were usually when I had my melt downs.

Talking to my doctor about this he said a few things to me.  One, babies are different.  Adalyn may not need as much sleep as Naomi did.  Naomi, who slept for a total of 5.5 hours each day spread out through three naps until she was 8 months old.  Then still slept 5 hours spread out through two naps until she was 16 months old!  Adalyn only needed half of that.  Or less.  It took me a few months to figure that out.

Second thing he told me; the world does not revolve around me.  What?!  What's that supposed to mean?  It means that I am not the only one who can take care of my babies.  There are other people who can feed them a bottle, or put them to sleep, make their sandwiches, change their diapers, sing to them, give them kisses, get them dressed, give them a bath... ect.   I felt like I was supposed to do it all.  Because I made that baby in my womb and I have the title Mommy I am supposed to take care of everything!  Aren't I?  I chose to bring those babies into the world, so I should be the one taking care of them at the expense of me.  That's how I felt.  That's not the reality if you want a healthy Mama.

I want to be a healthy Mama.

I worked something out with Jaren and his Mom.  I knew the number one thing I needed was to get out of the house.  So I would run without the kids.  I would plan something to do each week that got me into town or down to Idaho Falls.  Even though I was by myself, at least I was out and about. That all helped.  It didn't totally fix the problem, but it helped.

The third thing was once you leave your kids with that person, forget about them.  What?  Impossible.  I can't.  I leave and I rush to where I'm going to rush through what I'm there to do to rush back home to get them so they aren't a bother to who is taking care of them.  Even when that person is their ever-loving Nie Nie.  Or their Father.  Again with the whole, they came out of me so I have to raise them all by myself, thing.  I had to work through that one and realize that I could ask for help, I needed help and I needed to take that help and run with it.  I had to tell myself that they were in good hands and that I would be right back.  That those people taking care of them love them and will take better care of them than I can for those few hours because they aren't exhausted and stressed and crying because the clean laundry has been sitting right there in that basket in front of the couch for 4 days now.  So why don't you fold it already?!  Because I just don't want to.  I would rather sit on the couch and cry.

For those who haven't been through this you think, "For heaven sakes, just get off your rear and fold the clothes!  Put those kids in a stroller and go for a walk!  Take a shower already!"  Hearing my baby cry is like a knife to my eye balls.  When they are tired and crying I want nothing but to help them sleep.  Get that rest they need.  Their tiny bodies need to rest so they can grow!  She needs to rest so she can eat!  It's a vicious cycle.

So I worked on doing all of these things.  I ran, I cleaned, I went on errands by myself.  Things started to get a bit better.  The turning point for me was making a friend.  A friend who understood and who showed an interest in me.  Who made an effort to come over and visit and tried to understand my anxieties when she didn't have the same ones.  I have had some friends while living out here, but not one like this who is like another me in a different body.  She has been one of the biggest blessings in my life lately and I owe part of my sanity to her.  Naomi was in preschool, I left Adalyn with her Nie Nie and I went to the gym with Macie and her sister in law.  I opened up to my Dad the most and then a bit to my Mom and my Sister in Law Vicki.  It was a hard thing to talk about because I felt torn wide open for anyone to inspect and I couldn't stand being that vulnerable at that time.  I had friends to socialize with, an outlet for my physical stress in the form of the gym.  I went out with girlfriends once every two weeks or so.  Jaren would watch the girls, put them to bed so I could go out.  It was wonderful.  It helped tremendously.

This summer I ran my third half marathon.  Running is a huge form of therapy for me.  I feel good while I do it (when I'm not being attacked by dogs) and it helps with the weight loss.  I'm still working on Jaren and his focusing skills....

Where it took a year to get better after Naomi it took about 8 or 9 months for it to be all but gone after Adalyn.  It is such a surreal thing to me how it all but turns off at some point and the sunshiney Whitney emerges from the shadows.  I'm so grateful it does go away.  I know for some it does not and I feel for them.  I can only recommend these few things.  You have to take care of yourself so you can take care of your family.  Those Daddies helped make the babies too and they can help as well.  There are friends and family who would love to help for a few hours so you can get your sanity and self back.  It's a constant battle and constant work.  Just because you come home feeling rejuvenated only to be in a pile on the floor an hour later doesn't mean it was for nothing.  Because I've found that I have a better grasp on things that whole day and into the next and maybe even the next one.  Those down moments may not last as long.

Just a few weeks ago at my parents house in Washington.

I know PPD can express itself differently for people.  For me, not once did I have a violent or hurtful thought.  Not once, during my darkest moments did I ever even an ounce regret having children.  All I have ever wanted in my life is to be a Mother and make a difference in those lives.  I'd be in sobs and still thank my Heavenly Father for those girls because I knew it would pass.  Things would get easier and I could (hopefully) get back to normal.  For me I just dealt with intense sadness, desperation and feeling like I couldn't measure up, that I wasn't good enough. 

As for medication.  I think that's between you and your doctor.  We decided to see how I did without it while trying these other methods to help alleviate the symptoms and stressors.  Next time, if I get it, is a different story because I will have two other children to take care of and be whole for.  I have a hard time taking Excedrin for a headache so this was a huge decision for me. 

Postpartum Depression is a real thing and it's okay to need and ask for help.  Recognizing it is the biggest obstacle and then discovering your own self-help plan is the next.  I know that more than likely with the next one I'll be facing this issue again.  Hopefully I'll be better equipped to handle it and it will go away even sooner.  I can only hope.  For now, I hope I can help those who struggle to know they aren't alone and that they can work through it and get better.

Do you have anything to add?  Advice?  Thoughts?  Experiences?

Monday, August 26, 2013


I find myself thinking often of how I used to journal. At least once a week and often more than that all through Jr. High, High School and a little less in college, but still did it. It fell off to the side after I got married and turned into two to three times a year. Then I started up this here blog and posted 4-6 times a week sometimes! I enjoyed feeling some sort of connected to the world through that and being able to voice my thoughts while living in a world where I have little social interaction while living out here.

 Since having kids I've not been able to keep a very good schedule of writing. My life is different every day. Just when something starts to get comfortable and the same something changes. School starting, nap times changing, farming season beginning or ending, vacation throwing wrenches in things.

 What I see when I see my girls is how badly I want them to know how much I love them. How badly I wanted/want them. How I want them to know me, know the things I went through, the way I thought, that at every stage in their life they can look back and see their Momma went through it, too. So often I think, "What will I talk about?" And I sit down, open up blogger and stare and stare at the white page.

 I just want to be remembered. I want to be an example to my children and I want them to know me. Know me as an 8 year old, 15 year old, 20, 24, and now 27. That comes from writing experiences and my reactions to them. Tonight Jaren went to dinner with his bestie and Naomi came and sat on my lap and asked me to sing Primary songs to her. It was the best experience I have had one on one with her in a long time. It was a special moment and for a while she just stared right up into my tear stained face while I sang. Usually a question like, "Why are you crying, mama?" comes the second she see's tears. But not tonight, she looked into my eyes for 2 or 3 minutes, then laid her head on my chest.

 Having babies is hard for me. The pregnancies and the infancy part is hard on me. Adalyn has been particularly tough. Feeding times have been a struggle since she was born and she is 15 months old now. I am so grateful for both of them; I fear I may only be able to do this one more time. I'm hoping my body allows me two more, but I'm not in control of that. It's moments like what happened tonight that I want frozen in time. I want to never ever forget and I want my daughter to remember the love we both felt. That I have for her. She immediately told me, "I love you, mama" the second I was done.

I want my daughters to want to be like me. I want to be that person that allows them to look up to me. I want to be someone they should emulate. I want them to read my past and feel connected to me. I don't think I care if in 70 years no one remembers me except my children, grandchildren, great grand children. I hope it goes further than that. I wish I knew my great great's. I want to make it easy for my descendants to know me. Hopefully I can attain that.  Sometimes I feel that's all I need to do in life; raise good, respectful people and document life.  I sure take a million pictures; I just need to follow up with words.

Thursday, February 28, 2013


Neighbors house across the street.
 As much as I don't like living so far out of town, I love where I live. It's beautiful all the time, and I love my view of the sand dunes.
Backyard and partial view of the Sand Dunes.
 I also love all of the vegetation growing around. My lilac bushes, my big giant tree's in the backyard and some in the front. And.... that's about it.
Liliac bushes in my front yard.
 I'm not a fan of the winter's here. I don't like how long they are and how cold it gets.

Lilac Bushes.
Especially when the wind blows on top of it being below zero. It was worse when I was in school and was out in it so often, but now that I am inside for just about all of it, it's not so bad. Except that being inside all the time get's old. And stifling. Like right now, end of February I am just itching to run outside, let my kids outside, go for a walk, anything outside. There are certain view's that I can't get enough of and open the blinds in every room so I see it wherever I go.
Some more Lilac's.
And frosted mornings are one of them. I have been meaning to go out and take some pictures, but don't always have someone home to watch my girls so I can walk around the yard. One Sunday morning it was frosty and Jaren was home, so I put on a coat, snow boots and grabbed my camera and took a few pictures.
 Giant tree's that I love (when they aren't flying through my windows) in my backyard.  And Naomi's mini trampoline.
 Garden decoration I forgot to put away.  There is a blue one, too.  

 "Mama!  What are you doing?  Daddy!  Mama's outside!!"
 This is my favorite picture.  I love these trees.  Especially when they are luscious during the summer.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Let's Talk NICU

Adalyn will be 9 months old in 2 days (started this post 3 days ago). I should probably get down as much as I can remember. This may be totally jumbled and all over the place, but the best way for me to remember and write down my experience is to just type and type and let my mind go. So, bare with me :)

I had Naomi 2 weeks and 6 days early; at 37.1 weeks. I was a little worried about the chance that she may need the NICU, but figured she would be fine since she was technically full term. We were able to take her right home. Although, she was so small and not strong enough to get a full feeding from me. Having to supplement and the fact that she slept at least 20 hours a day for the first month or so and then slowly went down to 18 hours a day until she was 8 months old was the biggest sign that she was a bit of a preemie. (Although, I now know Naomi just loves to sleep and does so really well. Compared to Adalyn, anyway.) So when my water broke at 34 weeks and 2 hours I, at first, held hope they could stop the labor. Until I started walking and it never stopped gushing out. Then the contractions started about 7 minutes later and were only about 3 minutes apart from the beginning, before I even got to the hospital.

I knew she was coming and I knew she would need to be in the NICU. But honestly, I held hope that I would be able to take her home when I went home; three days later. I had heard a few stories of that happening. Six and 5 week early babies going home 3-5 days after being born. I just assumed Adalyn would be one of them.

When my doctor came into the room while I was in labor, before I was wheeled back to the O.R., he let us know that he wasn't going to be her pediatrician while she was in the hospital. I was a bit sad, because we really like him and I asked, "How long do you think she'll be in there?" HONESTLY expecting a few days when he said, "It's hard to say until she is here, but at least 3-4 weeks." I looked at Jaren and could tell the dread and weight that had settled on my heart had settled on his as well. We were pretty somber after that. There were so many different thoughts and emotions rolling around during the time I was in labor, I don't think I had any time to sort any of it out.

With Naomi, after they pulled her out they held her up so I could see her; but not with Adalyn, they got her out and rushed her back to the NICU. I didn't hear her cry for a minute or two and I'm not sure if I took a breath during that time. Once I heard her shrill scream and that she weighed 4 lbs 11 ounces I felt so relieved. More than I thought, and that is pretty good for 6 weeks early. I truly didn't understand what it meant to have a Preemie and all that has to happen before you can take them home. I wanted so badly to see her, but couldn't until I was able to move my toes.

I went through the recovery room and sat in my room trying and trying to move my toes. At this point it was about 6 a.m. and my poor Jaren was haggard. He had been in there seeing her and all of the tubes and the I.V. and wires and how little she was really had an effect on him. My nurse was really nice (happened to be the same one when I had Naomi), as soon as she saw the tiniest bit of movement from one of my toes she let Jaren heft me onto a wheel chair and take me to see her. Seeing her for the first time was so difficult. I couldn't touch her, because I couldn't get off the chair (she was lifted high and in the incubator), and she was so tiny and hooked to so many things. I felt so bad that I couldn't keep her in longer. Sad that I didn't know I was in pre-term labor for a week. Sad that my pregnancies were so horrible and my body can hardly handle them. Sad that Jaren had to go through all of this. Sad that I couldn't carry a full term baby for him and them.

 It was right here, first time seeing her that the Pediatrician came and told us we don't know how long she will be in, she looks good, she only needed oxygen for a little while. The IV will be in for a while. Don't rush things, baby is having to cook outside of me. Even though she looks done on the outside, she isn't on the inside. All hard things to hear. Then Jaren turns to me and says, "I don't know if we should have anymore...." WRONG THING TO SAY!!  And definitely the wrong time.  I was a giant mess and cried a whole lot about how we can't say that yet, we just need to see. I have already had to drop the number of kids I would like to have because of my body; the thought that this was it, right then when everything was so huge was a bit too much for me. After talking to the doctor and each other we have decided to just wait a long while before the next one and see how that goes, then we will know if we can try for four or not. I am already preparing myself for three when I want four, just in case.

Jaren went home to shower and get Nae's thing to his Mom's while I tried to sleep a bit. He came back that afternoon and wheeled me to see her again, and that was the first time I held her. It was incredibly emotional. She was so tiny and I was so sad that it had taken so many hours till I could hold her and I felt incredible amounts of guilt again for not being able to keep her in longer. That next morning they let me nurse her. She latched right on and I cried and cried because I knew that was the key to getting her to come home. They were all shocked because she was so early, but let me try to nurse her that day and the next.

I had her early on a Wednesday, It was Friday when everything caught up to me. I walked me and my wheel chair in and went to the nurse standing at her incubator and asked how she was doing. "Not good. She just had an apneic episode. She stopped breathing and I waited a few seconds to see if she would start up on her own and when she didn't I had to stimulate her. Whenever that happens it is at least 7 days until they can be released. It doesn't matter how well she does, it has to be at least a week."  She said all of this in a little of an angry tone.  Like it was my fault.  I can imagine how scary it must have been to go through that, I don't know how often it happens since the youngest they take babies into the NICU there is 34 weeks.  I didn't quite know what to say. I was feeling terrified, overwhelmed, sad, exhausted, deflated and totally helpless. Holding her was so emotional. I was alone, she was so little, the nurses were treating me like an uneducated little girl who needed to get the gravity of the situation. Making me feel like I did this to my baby. Broke my own water and wanted her out SIX WEEKS early. I was already going through my own feelings of guilt about it all. What I could have done or what I did do to make that happen. Feeling so incapable of carrying a baby to full term, feeling sorry for Jaren that his wife has early babies and can't seem to cook them long enough making the first few months very, very hard. I was capable of rational thought; I did what I could, what I knew. I made it to 37 weeks with Naomi, so how was I to know I wouldn't with Adalyn? I went to the doctor the week before when I started cramping in my low back. I knew it wasn't normal, I went in, did what I was supposed to and my water still broke. At least I can have children and carry them as far as I can. It's not all my fault. I have no control over my body. But then again.... had I known, I wouldn't have eaten so much salt. Or any, for that matter. I would have worked harder at staying down (although, I could hardly move as it was I was in so much pain), I would have asked for more help. I wouldn't have nested during that last trimester where I de-junked, cleaned and sorted my entire house all day long. Well... up until I was about 32 weeks because it just became impossible after that.

So there I was, thoughts like these going through my head. Feeling terrible for Naomi who was having such a hard time having her Mom just up and disappear one night.  There to tuck her in, gone when she woke up.  She was rather attatched to me at this point. I had just started preparing her for when the baby comes. Talking about how she would go to Nie Nie's house and then a few days later Mama would come home with our new baby girl. I was going to pack a bag with her, we would take it to Jaren's parents house, get her excited about it. But then she was starting to not feel well and was sick and it was another two days until they brought her to me. I still feel terrible about the way everything happened with her. 
We had a fence put around the entire backyard during the NICU time and Naomi loved to watch Jaren exexcavate everything level for the fence installers.

Anyway, I had this little tiny helpless baby who couldn't function on her own yet. She had been poked with needles and manhandled and I felt so bad that her first experiences with this world were without me around much, all alone in an incubator, being poked and prodded. I cried and cried and cried some more. Tried not to sob so loud because I was also very embarrassed and didn't want anyone else to hear. When Jaren came a little later and I was eating lunch I was such a mess. I feel bad that he had such a mess of a wife and a sick, sad, homesick toddler at his parents and a preemie itty bitty baby in the Hospital. And he had to hold it together because the three of us girls were messes. Basically, I look back on the time in the hospital before I was released and it was so hard. That's all I can think to describe it. Alone 90% of the time. Walking 1-2 miles back and forth from the NICU to Mother Baby where my room was, over and over all day and night while healing from a C-Section hours old. I walked a wheel chair, I'm convinced the reason I was able to move so well after only a week postpartum is because I was forced on my feet the second I had my catheter out and only stopped walking to be with the baby or eat or sleep.

Each time something new came up it felt like such a blow. Such a set back. The feeding tube going in meant that she couldn't eat from me. (I know it was necessary, I totally understand). Each time I went in for the first 4 days or so she was losing weight. They were tsk tsking me for taking her out of the incubator to HOLD her or try to feed her. I stayed until midnight Saturday night, my very last minute able to be there. Sunday morning they told me I couldn't nurse her anymore because she was too weak with Jaundice and fatigue at trying to nurse and keep up her temperature. I could do kangaroo care and that was it. Cue another intense melt down. Feeling guilty for trying to feed her and wanting to feed her when she wasn't strong enough to eat. And how doing so was wasting her away. This was also the day they put in the feeding tube. Which made me sad all over again. Putting a tube in her nose, down her throat, making her gag, into her stomach and then how uncomfortable it must have been just sitting in there. She would pull on it sometimes; get her little finger hooked. Every consoling word, "She wont remember any of it.", "It's actually not that uncomfortable and it's so quick to put in.", "She has to have it in order to grow and get out of here.", "It's actually better because we can get all of the air out of her tummy with it and she wont have gas bubbles." All of it didn't make me feel a whole lot better. I still felt so sad for my tiny baby. And for my toddler at home.
Jaren and Naomi were sick during this time.  So Jaren wore this incredibly uncomfortable mask when he came to see her until he felt better.
This was how I fed her until I could nurse her.  And even after that we still fed her through the tube.  
The highlights of the hospital time, aside from every moment I got to hold Adalyn, especially Kangaroo Care where I was so close to her and I slept, she slept, and it was peaceful. Was when my friend Jessica came to see me and my brother, Nathan and his wife Stephanie. Jaren came by at least once, sometimes twice a day. He was still farming and then had to show Naomi that we both didn't just disappear. She needed him. My Mom came when I went home and took care of Naomi and the things I couldn't because I was gone so much. When I was home I either slept or held Naomi. But every time I left Naomi cried and cried and begged me not to go. I would tell her I had to go feed our baby so she could come home and then I wouldn't have to leave. It was all torture. The only way I didn't have massive melt downs every 5 minutes was I tried not to think about anything other than what was right in front of me. I focused on what was at hand; "I'm driving to the Hospital. Driving, listening to music.", "I'm going to the NICU to feed my baby", "I'm going to the NICU to feed and do Kangaroo Care with my baby",  "I'm going to the bathroom",  "Gotta get something to eat...",  "Pump what she wont eat",  "change diaper, say goodbye, go home",  "I'm driving home to be with my girl",  "I need to let her know how much I love her",  "Holding Naomi, telling her about Adalyn, showing her pictures".  But don't think too much about Adalyn. Don't think too much about Naomi and what this is all like for her. Don't think too much about Jaren and what he must be going through. Don't think about anything but what is in front of you. It went on and on like that for the whole 17 days she was in.  Each day was a struggle like this.
She loved the elevators and wanted to ride them over and over.  Then when she saw my wheel chair she wanted to push it everywhere.  It was all a bit ooverwhelming to her.

The first time they let me try to nurse her again; after she showed 2 days of weight gain, she would not latch. I tried and tried and nothing. I was devastated. She had been doing so well! I understood the reasoning for not letting me nurse her, but I knew she had forgotten, or just didn't need to work for it because she wasn't hungry. She was being fed strait to her tummy. It was explained to me over and over again that the sucking reflex develops during the 35th gestational week, so I had to give her 4-10 days. But she had been doing it! She KNEW how. So I continued to try. Over and over again for the next 3-4 days. Crying each time she wouldn't. I kept telling her, "Baby, you have to eat. You HAVE to eat from me if you want to come home. And you want to come home, baby, this isn't home. You have a big sister that wants to meet you and she loves you already. And Mama can be with you all the time. I wont have to leave you. You just have to eat, baby. Please eat." Those were basically the exact things I remember saying while trying to get her to latch. When she did I cried and cried (again and some more) and felt so grateful. With her starting to eat from me there was a teeny bit of light showing towards the end of the tunnel. They continued to tell me not to expect anything. That usually they have babies there till they hit around 39 weeks gestational age (which would have been another MONTH). She was scheduled to come out June 15th (37 weeks)! They were telling me that she wouldn't come home till end of June.
This was how she ate when no one was able to hold her.  See her syringe hanging at the top of the picture?  She was on the billi light for a good 4-5 days and even though they continued to turn her on it she still developed big red spots :(

Once she latched I asked when we could start calculating percentage of feedings. They had explained to me that she is weighed before and after a feeding to see how much she get's through either me or a bottle. Then at the end of a day they take what percentage she received of her daily intake through an external source. Once she hit's around 80% they take out the tube and then as soon as she get's 100%, 24 hours needs to go by and then she can go home. I felt like they drug their feet starting this. And I wasn't able to come for every feeding to make sure she was getting some through me or a bottle. And they were busy, and didn't always try with her. It's easier to just set her food up to drain into her tummy.
This was the cutest thing to me.  The would roll little receiving blankets and position them around the baby so they felt a little more cucooned.  She loved being on her side with it inbetween her legs and her arms.  It's how I sleep with a body pillow.  Also, this was the first piece of clothing she wore; a purple tie-died onsie.

My sister, Lindsey works nights in the E.R. and those nights she worked, if it wasn't busy she would go up for one of the feedings and feed her. It meant so much to me because Adalyn was being loved and held by a family member. She was doing what I couldn't. And it was another feeding she was getting some of externally. I wasn't pushing very hard. I only wanted them to offer her the bottle and see if she would drink. If she didn't, okay, at least you offered it to her. If she would drink some, but not all, that's okay, at least you tried.

I didn't keep very good track of everything while I was there. I wish I had written about each day as it went. Her progress, my feelings, how Nae and everyone was doing at home. But, I never had time. And it felt too daunting to type it all in one handed on my phone. I did, however, write down her percentages of feedings. The first day they kept track they didn't try too much and she took 15% through either me or bottle. The next day Lindsey did a night feeding and I did three of the day feedings and she took 36%. Then they started offering a bottle for a few more feedings and she did 47%. Then all of the feedings got either me or bottle and she did 73% and weighed 4 lbs 15.5 ounces (4.5 ounces above birth weight and the first day I wrote down her weight). Last day of the tube in she took 95% of feedings and weighed 5 lbs .05 ounces. They took the tube out and she came home the next day weighing 5 lbs 3 ounces. Rule of thumb is once they hit their birth weight they usually are strong enough to do all the feedings through Momma or bottle. That held true for Adalyn. I think she could have come home at least 2 days sooner if everyone had worked a little more with her. I was only able to do so much since I also had a toddler at home who really needed her Mama.

I would go to the 10 o'clock feeding, then stay and do Kangaroo Care for 2.5 hours where, if my Mom was with me we would have lunch, talk and I usually would nap a little bit. Then I did the 1 o'clock and then went home.  I left just before 7 p.m. to do that NIGHT feeding. That's what I did all but 2 of the days where I did the 7 a.m., stayed till 10:30 a.m., then would go back for the 4 p.m. feeding. That allowed me to be home for Naomi's bedtime. I don't know what I would have done without my Mom. She came the day after I got home from the Hospital (learned my lesson, if I have a NICU baby again I'll have her come the day I have him/her so I'm not alone. Even if I have the baby during the winter when Jaren isn't farming we will still have two kids for him to be around for, so he may not be able to be around much.).
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Naomi was stealing my cereal and learning how to eat both cereal and milk off the spoon.  For the most part, it was more licked than slurped.
My Mother-in-Law would take Naomi so my Mom could take me to the Hospital for those first few days because I couldn't drive yet and park so far away and walk. Or Jaren would take me and drop me off and pick me up. Once I was able to drive, I would even pick Lindsey up and she would park my car so I wouldn't have to walk and she would come keep me company. We did that a few times. After about a week I was able to both drive and walk myself there and then I mostly did it on my own for the last week. I kept my nursing pillow there, took my pump and water every time and ate a meal from the Hospital each day. I actually liked quite a bit of it and had this Jello poke cake that was delicious. Oh, and some sort of fudgey chocolate cake. I wasn't too concerned about calories at this point; too much stress. One thing at a time.
She slowly went from being only clad in diaper to a onsie, to pajamas, to swaddled in this with a hat on.  With each drop of the temperature more clothing went on, and it meant she was maintaining her temp while still gaining weight.  Something we had struggled a lot with during the first week.
The Friday night before we got to take her home we went to see Bill Cosby at the College. It was nice to have a little date with Jaren after the stress of the last 16 days. Well... more, in reality. We met at the NICU where I had been feeding her. Jaren was able to spend some time with her as well. We went to dinner at a Greek place (that is no longer in business :( It was good) where I got a yummy Gyro. I am always on the hunt for those. Not any around here, anymore. Then we drove to the College, he got out to sit in our seats so they wouldn't give them away and I pumped in the back of the car and hoped no one peeked in the window. A memory I will never forget.

The show was so funny and it was something I desperately needed. Although, my incision hurt rather badly from laughing so hard and I was constantly thinking about Adalyn in the hospital. I hated every single milli-second of walking away from her little section/room. Every time. And she was constantly on my mind; she wasn't where she belonged and I wanted her home so badly. We had the tickets for the concert months before and weren't going to go, but in the end, my Mother-in-Law wanted Naomi for the night, it gave my Mom a break, too.
This was a glorious day.  When she was moved from the incubator to a "crib".  It meant she could control her own body temperature (huge) and was so much closer to going home.  It was only about 3 days from this 'till we were able to take her home.

The next morning we went to take Adalyn home. It took forever once everything was signed and ready because the nurse had to wait for another nurse to come to be with the one other baby that was in there (it was really hard to see so many babies come and go while I was still there. Stuck.). Finally, she just asked the Pediatrician that was making his notes on his rounds if he would be fine watching the baby while she walked us out. It took all of 3.5 minutes. And driving away was glorious. We drove by Smith Park where the Teton Dam Marathon was going on (I try to run that every year, except for then, because of obvious circumstances) and I thought, "next year, my friends.... next year" I'm starting my training in the next week or two for it and I'm dying for the snow to melt away so I can run outside.

This is a very long, jumbled, emotional post, but that was exactly how that time was for me. I think any woman who gave birth unexpectedly, so early, with or without other kids at home experiences a roller coaster of emotions from very low lows to moderately high high's. When I look back at the pictures or think about it much I usually am in tears (like I was most of the time writing this post). It's hard to understand until you've experienced it and I feel for those who have had to. I cannot imagine anyone who had to go through a longer time with more than one baby there. I feel for them.

Knowing what I know now, we are waiting quite a while longer to have the next one. My body needs the break and so does my mind. I need Adalyn old enough during my third trimester to be able to do everything on her own. Potty, get into and out of bed, climb onto a chair to eat and totally understand and communicate with me. Naomi isn't 3.5 yet and can do all of those things. I will go on a low salt diet from second Trimester on and as no salt as possible at about 26 weeks on. I'll put myself on bed rest (my doctor may, anyway) beginning of third trimester and then pray and pray that those changes will keep the baby in longer. Now that my body knows it can be done and make the pain go away at 34 weeks, we worry about that happening again. Depending on how all of that goes and how early the baby comes and what the doctor says will determine if I can have that 4th baby, like I hope. I am preparing myself now for only 3 so I wont be so devastated if I am not able to have more.
This is 9 month old Adalyn and I today. 

It's something else when you aren't in control of how many children you can have; your body is. It is what it is and I am grateful that I can have children and that they come whole and healthy, albeit small and a little underdeveloped. I count my blessings, which are many.