Thursday, 27 November 2014

Dear Baby -- Happy Thanksgiving!

Dear Emma,

Happy FIRST Thanksgiving!  This holiday is all about family and food and sharing what you are grateful for with those you love. I am so incredibly in love with my beautiful, little family and thankful every day for our blessing, you.  Our time so far has been nothing short of amazing and I cannot wait to spend even more time with you as you grow up.

I find it hard sometimes to comprehend the phenomena of time.  Our time - It's quite arbitrary.  Some days I feel as though time moves at a glacial pace, whilst other days I am shocked when I look at the clock and the day is nearly done.  

Your life - albeit short - has been punctuated with a flurry of highs and lows - celebrations and firsts and sorrows.  Every day there is something new which you discover: your toes, your reflection in the mirror, carrot or the fact that you can screech a sound only dogs can hear.

You are learning - and so am I.  Time is a wonderful teacher.

I have already written about the end of our breastfeeding journey, and although I'm sure you don't want to hear about it, the day came when I had nothing to give you but a bottle. As sad as I was, I was looking forward to all of our new adventures together - but I will forever cherish those feeds when it was just me and you (just like we always said - remember?).  

When I think about time I look at where I was a year ago.  You were here too - although not technically HERE.  You were alive and you were making your presence known.

One year ago I was hospitalised for hyperemesis gravidarum.  My morning sickness was an absolute dilapidating experience.  I remember the nausea first setting in and being relieved - yes - relieved that I felt something and I knew I really and truly was pregnant.  But then it didn't go away.  Not by that afternoon.  Not by that evening.  Not by the middle of the night.

I was in a musical - The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas - and it was the week of the show. I was performing and then running off stage to vomit every few minutes.  How I made it through it, I have no idea.  

I remember being too unwell to go to work.  I remember being unable to use the loo.  I remember driving to the doctor and being told I had to go to the hospital.  I don't think anyone can really appreciate how ill I really was.  Unless you have suffered with morning sickness as severe as I had - you don't get it. 

When we were in hospital we met you for the first time.  

You were real. You were you. You were and are still perfect. 

That being said - hyperemesis is real and it is one of those reasons why I genuinely disliked my pregnancy.  Everyone always told me it would be worth it - YOU would be worth it - and I agree. You are worth it. I would do it all again for you.

The weeks of suffering are not a distant memory - I remember nearly every agonising minute of lying on the floor in our house on a bed made from cushions from our sofa.  Daddy would run out to buy me anything I fancied to eat - anything to get me to eat.  Some days I was obsessed with orange juice, others it was ice pops.  Iced tea slushies really helped. 

That was a time in my life I will not too soon forget.  But if I had known then just how wonderful you would be, I would have treasured those minutes, hours, days and weeks just a little bit more.  As horrible as the sickness was, it was the start of our journey.  Nothing has been easy since that day one year ago, but Im starting to think I am cut out for it all - the challenges, the struggles, the good times and bad.  At some point down the road you're going to say I'm too mean or too harsh.  Yep - you're right.  I'm your mom....and after this year I've learnt that if I'm going to be a mom - I need to be tough.

Thanksgiving will always be special to me, as it was over Thanksgiving where I first met you.  I am thankful for you, Emma Berry.  Today, tomorrow and forever.

I love you,

Monday, 17 November 2014

Happy four month birthday, Emma!

How Old:   Four Months!
Weight:  11 pounds, 5 ounces
Likes:   Super Baby!, stuffed Bunny, Kicking on the Floor, Walks outside in the Moby Wrap, baby massage and BATHS!!!!
Dislikes:  Being changed (anything pulled over her head or over her arms....geeze!!), being held too close or not the right way, extended periods in the car, rolling over (PANIC!) and not being put to sleep right when she wants it!
Eating:  Well, my last post sums it all up. Since our formula transition, Emma seems quite happy - she is so used to short feeds it is taking some adjusting to our schedule.  She has tried Baby Rice and Carrot so far - I think she finds the whole process strange, but she seems quite intrigued by the flavours!  We are using the Gina Ford Weaning method - I like it because it takes the thinking out of it!  Wish us luck!
Sleeping:  Emma looooves her sleep...when she gets it her way.  Unfortunately, she needs to be in her crib, swaddled and in the pitch black in order to sleep.  She is fabulous at night - only wakes up once between 1 and 3 AM - she slept all the way through once!!!  She needs 3 naps during the day and they are really inconsistent. Some days she will sleep for 30 minutes - other days it's two hours!
Routine:  Our routine is all over the place with the introduction of formula and longer feeds.  We usually still wake up at 6 (isn) and then an hour and a half after a feed, we have a nap.  That routine continues until 6 pm when we give Emma a bath and she has her final feed at 7.  From there - she's usually out until 2am!  
Sizes:  WELL.  She's an American girl at heart.  In US clothes she is wearing 3 month tops and 6 month bottoms (those arms and legs!!!).  In the UK she is wearing 0-3 month and has only just grown out of new baby - mind you - it's just her arms that have grown out!
Milestones:  Smiles, smiles, smiles!  She is also trying to roll over. She tends to get one leg over the other and then gets stuck and cries.  That - or she rolls over which such force she bounces back and cries. Bless her.  Teeth are making some movements as she is drooling everywhere and chewing on everything.  Solids are our massive milestone this month!
Mum's favourite moment:  Emma's face when we gave her carrot for the first time.  I just melted.  She isn't sure but then she has an adorable smile when she realises she likes it!
Dad's favourite moment:  When out for our nightly stroll around Bonfire night, some early fireworks were set off. Her face was an absolute picture - she was mesmerised!  

We had a few great moments this month - quite a few teary ones (from both of us) - but mostly adorable, lovely, gorgeous moments with Baby Emma!

Emma's first Halloween!  We opted for a Day of the Dead inspired skeleton.  

Lunch at Middleton Steakhouse. She's loving hats at the minute!  Dribble bibs are also a KEY element of her wardrobe at the minute - teeth are on their way!  I LOVE these Ted Baker bibs!

Sophie the Giraffe is our new favourite toy.

Tummy time is NOT Emma's favourite.

But she loves walks with mummy and daddy in the evening.
How cool is her hat?

Every day there is something new and exciting!  Sparklers for Bonfire night were particularly new and exciting!

Another month older - where on earth does the time go?


Saturday, 15 November 2014

Our feeding journey...the good, the bad and the ugly

I had never been one of those women who was "gung ho" breastfeeding. I wasn't actually sure I wanted to (in spite of health benefits) because I couldn't imagine whipping my breasts out in public. I couldn't imagine a little person gumming me to death.  I don't really know what changed my mind in the end, but I found myself repeatedly telling midwives that "Yes, I am breastfeeding" during my 36 hour labour. 

From day one it was ridiculously hard. Emma couldn't latch, I had no milk due to the C section, she was screaming, I was stressing- it just wasn't a pretty picture. By the time I was released from hospital four days later, we STILL hadn't cracked breastfeeding. That first night was nothing short of a nightmare as Emma just screamed and screamed. Of course she was screaming - she was hungry!  The combination of the two of us just wasn't going to make feeding work. 

Enter: Nipple Shields. I had heard of them from a midwife in the hospital and decided to try them as a Hail Mary attempt. Of course they worked - but they didn't work in time. Emma had lost far too much weight and we were readmitted into hospital. 

I persevered with those shields, carrying my little jam jar of sterile water with me everywhere. After two hospital admissions where midwives, doctors and nurses just shook their heads, unable to offer any better ideas or suggestions - I was doing everything right - Emma's weight started to creep back up. Slowly. But it was creeping. 

We attempted topping her up with formula a number of times. Projectile vomit doesn't even cover it. Her entire stomach would empty and I would be covered. It was a vicious cycle which made me declare that I would make breastfeeding work - formula clearly wouldn't cut it. 

It wasn't always easy - but we made it work with the shields. Every time our health visitor came we would try and take the shields away. Emma would get frustrated and scream, I would panic, nothing would flow - I eventually gave up trying.  If she was feeding, she was feeding.  End of discussion. 

We were referred to a specialit who cut tongue tie, making feeding easier. Emma had a slight posterior tie so in a snap decision I agreed to the cut. I fed her immediately after and would she latch? Of course not. Did she after?  Nope. Was it worth it?  Probably not. 

We carried on for three months - and that's when I started to notice problems. Emma's hunger increased; my supply stayed the same. She even rejected the shields as she could get more milk without them. But it still wasn't enough to satisfy her. 

In spite of EVERYTHING - and I mean EVERYTHING - I felt Emma wasn't getting enough and I couldn't express more than 30 ml a time to create a stock pile. I drank nearly 8 pints of water a day (nearly wetting myself daily), I pumped 3-4 times a day, I loaded up on carbs, I even rented a hospital grade dual pump from the NCT. It just wasn't happening.  We started topping her up after nearly every feed with Nutramigen - a broken down prescription formula from our GP. She was taking 90 ml - that was like half a feed, not a top up!

We had her weighed on Wednesday and at 17 weeks she weighs 11 lbs 5 oz. 10th percentile. Which, to be fair, is consistent - just low. B said "Somebody has to be 10th..."  (She's probably 85th percentile for height).   Our Health Visitor suggests we try normal formula as B tends to give Emma tastes of whatever he is eating - yogurt, ice cream, rice pudding, olives, melon.... (don't even get me started on this....) - she never had a reaction so we may as well give the formula a go. 

So we did.

And that's where the nightmare started.  

After having a top up of Cow and Gate at 4pm, Emma was fine and dandy until 7. I laid her down to undress her for her bath and the projectile vomiting started.  She was soaked - our duvet was soaked - she was horrified - I was horrified.  We managed to calm her down and I got into the bath with her.  She projectile vomited again.  

We held her in our arms and she just lay - floppy and staring blankly - almost unresponsive. B tried to give her water to rehydrate her, but she refused.  When she started crying an hour or so later, I offered her a breast milk feed - she vomited on me.  This time - she stopped breathing.

Apparently it's part of the design of a baby to stop breathing when they vomit to prevent choking.  I didn't know this.  B acted quickly and picked her up and tilted her sideways to help clear her airway.  I just sat and sobbed.

B ended up getting some Dioralyte - a rehydration fluid suggested by a friend in Paediatrics - but Emma still refused.  She just lay in my arms falling asleep.  We let her sleep and then kept offering her the fluids when she woke at 3 am.  She had the fluid, plus some breast milk.  She was the same at 7am.  

The only reason we didn't end up in A and E last night was because B knows what he is doing.  He consulted his colleagues immediately and people were all too keen to help and offer advice.  Sure, parents worry and babies spit up.  This was not spit up, nor was it vomit.  

After a trip to the GP, many conversations with the Health Visitor and an appointment with the dietician, we now have a permanent prescription for special formula, we have to wean Emma onto solids and we are keeping her dairy free until she is one.  

There is absolutely NOTHING more horrifying than looking at your baby's terrified face when they can't breathe.  I'm exhausted.  I'm emotional.  I'm thankful for B's knowledge.  I read an article the other day about things your mom never told you about being a mom and it really hit home.  

The weaning process has made me really look at our breastfeeding journey and it actually breaks my heart that I have to end it.  I know I'm going back to work and I physically won't be able to feed her myself or pump enough to give her feeds - but I will miss it terribly.  We worked so hard and I feel as though I have failed her.  I know not many people get this far with it and I should be proud of what I have managed - and I am - but I'm also pretty sad.  I wish I could do more, but I can't. 


Monday, 3 November 2014

Remembering Grandpa

It's been a very sad week for our family as my wonderful Grandpa passed away a few days after his 88th birthday.  For the past few years he has been living in a Nursing Home and suffering from Dementia.  It's been a struggle, mostly as we all knew and loved him for his fun, spirited personality.

I was unable to travel home to say goodbye, so I did what I could by writing a Eulogy as I did for my grandma.

My heart aches. Not only because I couldn't be there with my loved ones, but because I didn't have the past few years to spend with him - I know he wouldn't have known me if I had been there - but I still wish I could have been there.

I am presenting this eulogy that was written by my sister Jennifer in England who is taking care of Carmelo’s great-granddaughter, Emma Rose.

This is one eulogy I never thought I would have to write. Carmelo Garofalo - my grandpa - was the strongest man I’d ever met. Even into older age, he was made of tougher stuff than the rest of us. I know no one is invincible, but that's how he always appeared to us grand kids. Strong.  While his strength was noticeable, his heart - his love - for his wife, children, grandchildren and even great grandchildren is what I - and I’m sure all of us - remember the most. 

Over the past few years, we have spent a great deal of time clinging onto these moments, but more importantly remembering Carmelo for who he was.  It has been five years since we started to watch my grandpa slip away - we were heartbroken, dementia left very little of the strong Italian we all loved so much.  

We aren't saying goodbye to Carmelo today, as his spirit and spark faded a long time ago - and while his body put up an incredible fight, he is able to rest, whole once again. I know for me, it’s the memories - those fantastic stories about Carmelo from years ago - which remind us what a headstrong, funny man he really was. That is the way I want to remember my grandpa.  

Carmelo was the second oldest of nine children born and raised in Novara, Sicily and that’s where he became the man we all knew and loved - Husband, Brother, Dad, Grandpa, Chief, Papa and friend.  When he was 18 he joined the Italian navy and from there he met and fell in love with Emma.  He was the only one of his family to leave Italy but still kept those Italian beliefs even though he was miles from the place where he grew up.  He believed that you respected your elders, you always cleared your dinner plate and you never put a bare foot on the ground.  He had a strong will and knew what was best.  Cut off jeans?  Inappropriate (even though my mom dared to challenge that rule).  Scruffy hair (or in our case, curly)?  Forget it - it should be brushed.  Loose tooth?  Don’t go anywhere near grandpa…he’ll knock it straight out.  Men clearing their plates at the table?  That’s women’s work.

Most of us remember him as a walker - he used to walk five miles every day around the North end of Painesville.  He was once bitten by a dog while walking, and when he hid behind a tree he found $10.    It may have been the event which fostered his fear of dogs, but at least he made some money out of it.  He was also once caught in the rain - so he did the only logical thing one could do - waited the rain out on a stranger’s porch.    In spite of inclement weather and dangerous canines, it wasn’t his commitment to his walks which impressed us, it was the treasures he collected while he was out and about.  Items ranged from small toys to rap CDs (there were over 900 random keys in his garage).  One day he came home with a dry wall measurer.  You never did know what to expect following one of Carmelo’s walks.

One of his other passions was food.  When he emigrated and came to America the whole ship suffered from terrible seasickness.  Not grandpa.  He was in the dining hall.  Eating. All by himself. Maybe because of his navy experience.  Sundays were made for spaghetti, meatballs and pasta sauce. The whole family piled into the kitchen for the feast - the same feast every Sunday after church. The family meal became an extension of our religion in itself.  If you wanted to learn how to cook the infamous sauce, you needed to be at the house early - and grandpa meant early.  By the time anyone got there to learn, the meatballs and sauce were already done.  Another lesson we learnt was that the wine was the first thing to go onto the table and the last thing to come off - it’s called “The Light” so named as it was the guiding light to the table, conversation and family. 

I think Christmas will always hold the most treasured memories of Grandpa.  Christmas Eve we would gather together and feast upon the traditional Seven Fish.  After, he would always play Santa Claus and lead us in rounds of carols before a single gift could be opened.  He would say “TO Brian , from Santa Claus” “TO Hallie, from Santa Claus.”  Then, he would watch each present be opened, followed by an exclamation of “Ohh lala!”   

In true Carmelo fashion, he celebrated his 88th birthday last weekend surrounded by loving family and excellent food.  Grandpa always used to say “It took my mother nine months to make me.  I take my time.”  He always had something to say - if we ever asked where he was going he would tell us “I go Dancing!”  

Last September, we lost my grandma - Emma - and in spite of this wretched disease, I truly believe Carmelo felt her absence.  We know that he enjoyed himself - he wanted one last meal with those who meant the most to him before he joined Emma.  They are meant to be together, and we can now rest in the knowledge that they are where they should be.

Goodbyes are never easy.  Especially when you feel as though you didn’t and couldn’t have a proper goodbye.  With heavy hearts, we don’t say goodbye, but rather “See you soon.”

Go on, Grandpa. Grandma is waiting for you.   I hope you are both dancing.