World Prematurity Day (or Peter’s Story, for those who haven’t already read it)

In July 2010, when I was 27 weeks pregnant, I found some blood in my panties. The on-call obstetrician told me to go to the maternity unit at UMass. The thought never crossed my mind to bring anything with me like a change of clothes or a book or a camera. I was just going to be reassured that everything was fine and sent home.

In triage, however, it became obvious that I was having contractions every 4 minutes. A bag of IV fluids did nothing to mitigate my contractions, and after a couple hours in triage, my cervix started dilating. Nifedipine brought my labor to a halt, thankfully, and for 20 hours, my cervix held steady at 1-2 cm dilated.

At 3:00 a.m., almost 24 hours after my initial steroid injection for fetal lung maturation, I had to admit to myself that my contractions were becoming painful. I called for my nurse. She didn’t seem worried, but I was becoming increasingly concerned as the contractions intensified. At 3:35 a.m., a resident arrived to do another internal exam, pain and pressure mounted, and I struggled to lay still. He pulled his hand out and told the nurse quietly, “I feel nothing but membranes.” I stopped resisting the pressure, and my water broke in a huge gush. My baby’s feet slipped out my vagina.

The next 15 minutes passed in a whirlwind. Someone called Code White, the obstetric medical emergency code, and I was quickly surrounded by medical professionals. On the way to the operating room, a doctor exclaimed, “This is not the way it’s supposed to happen!” Those words still ring in my ears every time I think of my son’s birth.

A dozen screams and one long push – that’s all it took to deliver my 2 ½-pound baby. At 3:51 a.m., a wave of relief swept over me as the pain vanished. Then a wave of shame consumed me. I was mortified that after giving birth to a tiny, silent baby, my primary response was to feel relieved that the pain was gone. Finally, a wave of uncontrollable shivering overtook me, and my heart went numb.

About an hour after the birth, a neonatologist came to update me and my husband. Dr. Picarillo congratulated us and asked whether our son had a name. I panicked, not ready to commit. Thankfully, my husband had a sufficiently level head to christen our son.

“Peter. His name is Peter.”

Dr. Picarillo told us that Peter was alright. He promised us that we could see our baby in a couple hours after Peter’s umbilical catheters had been placed. After he left, I finally broke down and cried.

For most parents, their baby’s NICU stay is filled with both highs and lows; it is often described as a roller coaster ride. Unfortunately, we inherently recall negative events more easily and in greater detail than positive ones. Looking back on Peter’s early weeks, I remember all too well the green aspirations that a nurse pulled from his stomach when he was 4 days old, the x-ray that showed just how inflamed his lungs and intestines were, the neonatologist’s decision to treat Peter’s patent ductus arteriosus with NeoProfen, and the numb feeling that overwhelmed me during this first setback. I remember how tears blurred my vision and guilt knotted my stomach when I was told that Peter’s second cranial ultrasound revealed an intraventricular hemorrhage. I remember how horrified I was to learn that Peter’s 1- and 5-minute Apgar scores were 1 and 4, to realize that he was in hypovolemic shock after delivery, and to be told that Peter “gave us a run for our money” in the delivery room. I remember how hopelessly impatient and frustrated I felt when, after making it 4 days without a recordable bradycardia spell, Peter had several spells on the night shift that set back his discharge yet another 5 days. The list of Peter’s diagnoses still rolls off my tongue: respiratory distress syndrome, hyperbilirubinemia, apnea of prematurity, anemia of prematurity, bilateral stage 2 retinopathy of prematurity, hydronephrosis…

Thankfully, the emotions associated with those negative events faded from memory more quickly than the emotions associated with the happy events. Nostalgia for Peter’s early milestones gradually supplanted the feelings of sadness, guilt, and fear which at the time made the NICU stay a torturous marathon. I have many cherished memories of our time at UMass: the first time I held Peter, the first day he was allowed to wear clothes, the day his nasal cannula was discarded, the day he moved to an open bassinet, and the day that he was finally unhooked from the vital signs monitors. I miss the way Peter used to open his eyes one at a time, wrinkling his entire forehead as if it took a tremendous effort just to lift an eyelid. I miss reclining after Peter’s feedings with him asleep on my chest. And I especially miss watching Peter’s miraculous transformation from a wrinkly old elf into a chubby-cheeked cherub.

Peter was discharged weighing 5 lbs, 6 oz after 73 days in the NICU. It was the happiest day of my life, a day worth waiting for. We still had some hurdles to overcome after discharge: follow-up appointments with specialists, developmental screenings and therapy, and six months of quarantine during cold and flu season. My attempts to get Peter to exclusively breastfeed and to sleep through the night before his first birthday were ultimately unsuccessful. The memories of Peter’s abrupt delivery came back to haunt me, and I struggled with PTSD for a few months after he was discharged. But at the end of the day, I knew that we were lucky. Peter didn’t have any severe complications of prematurity, and his prognosis was good. One by one, he was discharged from specialists and therapists, and his neonatal diagnoses were archived, leaving him with a clean bill of health.

Peter is now an amazing little kindergartener. Ironically, if he had been born near his October due date, Peter would have had to wait an extra year to start school. The day he was born, I honestly expected that we would be facing learning disabilities when he reached school age. Instead, Peter turned the tables and taught himself to read around the time he turned 3 years old. He is a spatial thinker and loves geography. He memorized all 50 states and capitals around his fourth birthday… just for fun! Now his fine motor skills are catching up, and Peter has started to write and spell. Peter’s first months of life were not easy, but his early struggles made me all the more grateful for and amazed at each milestone he has achieved. I’ll certainly never take a single breath – or opportunity to hug my son – for granted.

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Joseph Thadeus Glab

Another member of the Greatest Generation passed away today: Joseph Thadeus Glab, age 94, 6/7/1921 – 11/5/2015. Joe grew up in a primitive log cabin in Hazelhurst, WI. During the Great Depression, he hunted wildlife to provide meat for his parents and three sisters to eat. After graduating Minocqua High School in 1940, he left home to serve in the Navy. During WWII, he was a pilot in the Atlantic Front and later, the Pacific Front. He married Lois Kohl in 1950, had three children, retired as a Navy commander, and eventually became the grandfather of five grandkids. He was an incredibly charming man with his bright blue eyes, warm smile, and generous praise. I’m thankful that my grandfather was able to pass peacefully to a better place after a long, full life. May the lessons of his generation not be forgotten.

Glab kids

My dad’s eulogy for Daddy Joe was more detailed:

Good morning.

On behalf of my family and myself, I would like to thank you for honoring my father with your presence. I am most grateful.

Joseph Glab, my dad, was a modest man of great integrity with a remarkable personal story, lived in extraordinary times.

Dad was the third of four children of ethnically Polish immigrants who came to this country to escape economic deprivation in an obscure corner of the Hapsburg Empire in 1905. My grandfather worked in the mills in Pennsylvania before making his way west to the great Polish enclave in Chicago. From there, my grandparents homesteaded a farm in the north woods of Wisconsin. My dad grew up on that farm. Things were basic. His home was a vertical pole log cabin without electricity or indoor plumbing. If you wanted heat, you chopped wood. During the summers, my dad worked as a fishing guide. The Chicago businessmen who hired him recognized his potential and urged him to get an education. That wasn’t easy. In order to attend high school, Dad had to work for room and board with the owner of the bakery in Minocqua Wisconsin as the family farm was too far for a daily commute.

Dad joined the navy in October of 1940. Upon entering boot camp the Navy gave assessment tests to the recruits. To encourage the recruit’s best efforts, the Navy offered pilot training slots to the top two recruits in each battalion of several hundred. Dad’s hard work and talent payed off, he got the number 2 slot. That was fortunate, as the most common assignment for his battalion was the USS Arizona and many if not most of them died the morning of December 7th. Following a brief assignment to the USS Nevada, Dad went to pilot training and Officer Candidate School. He was assigned to squadrons flying long range missions against U-Boats out of the US and England.

As the war in Europe ended, Dad was assigned to a reconnaissance squadron in the Marianas Islands. After the war, the Navy sent him to college at Marquette University where he met my mother. They married in 1950. Highlights of his assignments over the next twenty years included what is now the Naval Post Graduate School in Monterrey, Photo Reconnaissance Squadron 63 which surveilled much of Southeast Asia in the mid 1950’s, Two tours developing Navy’s P-3 antisubmarine aircraft and as the chief staff officer for antisubmarine warfare in Keflavik, Iceland during the 1961 Berlin Crisis and the months leading up to the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. His career was consequential.

After the Navy, Dad worked for the local school district. In retirement Dad volunteered at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library for two decades as well as a national level figure skating judge.

My mom once told me that you never fully appreciate your parents until you have children of your own. As a child, I appreciated that Dad was one of those guys who could fix anything, He was a good provider and most importantly a faithful husband to my mother for nearly 65 years. Only as a parent did I come to appreciate his parenting skills. Dad would insist that as kids, we would look at disagreements with others from their perspective. Though I did not like that as a kid, he was right. Dad was also a “free range parent” before the term was coined. He never set curfews. Instead, through discussions, he insured that we were schooled in the “real world”, its risks and rewards. We understood the consequences of poor decisions and the rewards of good ones.

In the fullness of time Dad, along with the much of the country, came to appreciate the extraordinary times of Second World War. Millions from this country and many others, without any prospect of fame or fortune and at enormous personal risk joined in the greatest collaborative effort in the history of man. Dad and his generation saved the world from fascism, eastern imperialism, and then prospered after the war.

They and two subsequent generations, contained Soviet communism until it collapsed from its own despotism. Tom Brokaw was right to call them “The Greatest Generation” and we all owe them much.

In closing, please remember my Dad the way I think he would like to be remembered. A patriot, a member of that greatest generation who did his duty when duty called. Thank You.

 

 

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Welcome, fall!

We have been blessed with gorgeous fall thus far, and Columbus Day – a non-PAREXEL holiday which I was forced to take off due to Peter’s school and Alina’s day care both being closed – was spectacular: warm and sunny with flaming fall foliage. I took the kids to the Fall Festival at West End Creamery, and Peter had a blast climbing a tractor tire tower, racing rubber ducks, riding a cow train, swimming and digging in a corn crib, climbing a giant spider web, jumping on a giant inflated bounce pillow, weaving our way through a giant corn maze, learning to ride a tricycle, and making an admirable effort in tether ball and tug of war. Unfortunately, the large crowd of people meant that we didn’t have the time/patience to purchase the creamery’s ice cream, much to Peter’s chagrin. And we tried to catch a hayride before he had to leave for Peter’s physical… but just after we sat down, a staff member announced that rides would be on hold for 20 minutes due to a medical emergency. It’s hard to complain of bad luck, though, when the weather was that good.

At Peter’s physical, we confirmed that he (still) weighs 35 lbs and that despite his father’s worries, Peter’s BMI is perfectly normal at 45 percentile. He’s right on track to reach an adult height of… ahem… 5′ 5″, like his father. I was relieved that Peter had learned to pedal a tricycle just before we went to the appointment because that was a prominent question on the developmental questionnaire.

Peter has earned his share of bragging rights in other areas as well. He started kindergarten holding his scissors backwards and holding his pencil with a clumsy fist grip. Within the past couple weeks, though, his pencil grip has been perfected as far as my untrained eye can see. Moreover, the boy who cried in frustration and refused to write his name on valentines for his friends last February is now happily writing the titles of books (which he may or may not have actually read) on his reading log and writing the names of objects he drew on class worksheets (with some degree of spelling awareness). And the the literacy milestone which I had been predicting for awhile was reached last week: Peter started reading chapter books. (More precisely, he started reading Ricky Ricotta’s Mighty Robot books. I’m unsure whether I’ll be able to find many other chapter books that are at his reading and interest level. He lets me read Junie B. Jones books to him, but they seem to be a bit above his interest level.) Overall, I’m very happy with the progress Peter is making in kindergarten. I worried about him being too young or too advanced in reading, but overall, kindergarten seems like a good fit for him this year. He does manage to wow his teacher occasionally, e.g., when he is asked to draw two things that start with the letter, o, and proceeds to draw Ohio and Oklahoma. And then mark ‘O’ in the center of Oklahoma for Oklahoma City and ‘C’ in the middle of Ohio for Columbus. At the end of the day, though, he is enjoying school and growing in several areas, and we are both happy about this.

Meanwhile, Miss Alina just hit 7 months, weighs 16 lbs, and thinks that she is about 2 years old. When we wound our way through the corn maze, Alina insisted on being the one to carry the map. When she sees other people eating, she demands a share of the tasty goodness. When we go to the library, Alina crawls through the room and attempts to pull books from the shelves. She loves to stand holding my hands and “dance” with me the way Peter did when he was 11 months old. She will play on the floor by herself for awhile, but then she will spot a tall person, crawl over to him or her, grab onto garments to pull herself to standing, and indicate through chirps and tugs that she should be carried. In sum, there’s no stopping this girl!

If I may say so, I think Alina has left her awkward 1- and 2-month-old days behind and blossomed into a very pretty baby. Son is obviously smitten by Alina and tells her instinctively every day how beautiful she is. I completely understand where the words are coming from, but I couldn’t help pointing out that by his own assessment, his wife is “cute” but his infant daughter is “beautiful.” Seems like an unfair allocation of adjectives to me. Regardless, it’s clear that Alina’s smile is infectious, and she has become quite popular with the older kids at day care. As for Alina, she clearly adores her older brother, and nothing warms my heart like watching the two of them laugh together. In fact, after 1.5 months of Alina screaming bloody murder every time I tried to bathe her, I finally discovered the trick to getting her to enjoy baths again: brother Peter. All three of us hop in the tub together, Peter makes Alina laugh with his bathtime antics, and I wash Alina. Once she is clean, I hand her over to Son to be dried and clothed. (Yes, it takes 3 people to bathe a 16-pound baby.)

It is interesting to note the ways in which Alina and Peter are similar and different. Alina has way more and longer hair than her brother did as an infant. Son wants to cut her hair, but I refuse because I want it to grow long enough to put into pigtails. Both Peter and Alina were/are very smiley, flirtatious babies. Both love finger foods but couldn’t care less about purees and infant cereal. On the other hand, Alina’s fine motor skills are more precise than Peter’s were as a baby; no one’s going to accuse that girl of having a “preemie grasp.” Alina drinks significantly less than Peter did, making pumping an easier endeavor to keep up. (Bonus: Alina still nurses at night!) Alina generally seems more driven and less laid back than Peter. My memory of Peter’s baby babbles is limited, but I do think that Alina is more “talkative” and more intentional with her vocalizations. Before Alina was born, I asked Peter what babies say. “Ah,” he replied. I thought this was cute but somewhat off-base at the time. At this point, however, it is a very good approximation of Alina’s “Hey, look at me!” vocalization.

I’m not mentally ready for winter yet, so we’ve been trying to squeeze as much fun into our fall weekends as possible. In September, we went “rock climbing” at Mt. Wachusett, visited Vietnamese friends in Andover, enjoyed the Sterling Fair, and went pumpkin picking at Breezy Gardens. Last weekend, we went apple picking at Tougas Farm and had a blast at a backyard birthday party of Peter’s classmate. Peter has another birthday party and playdate scheduled for this weekend. I hope we get a couple more nice weekends before winter sets in.

Peter says that he’s excited for Halloween, but I’m not exactly sure why; he still hates all things ghoulish or frightening. If we’re lucky, he may have outgrown has fear of jack-o-lanterns this year and be able to trick-or-treat after dusk. I suspect most of Peter’s excitement about Halloween was picked up from his classmates. Although Peter is a relatively quiet kid, he seems to be well-known and well-liked by his classmates. This makes me happy because it appears that Peter is getting out of kindergarten everything that I had hoped he would get: opportunities to read books independently, develop his writing skills, learn to follow directions, and make friends with his classmates. And as I watch Peter make new friends, I start to think that I, too, may be able to make some new friends again.

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A kindergartener and a five-month-old

Alina accomplished a lot during her fifth month. She has become even more talkative and particularly enjoys squealing like a dolphin.  She started rolling back-to-belly, attempting to sit up, pivoting, putting everything in her mouth, and tripod sitting.  As soon as she started rolling back-to-belly, she threw Back to Sleep out the window, much like her mother and brother.  And not long after she started adeptly grabbing my fork at the dinner table, I let her start sucking and chewing on cucumbers, peaches, plums, puffs, sausages, pieces of paper… ahem. Well, I did try to divert her love for literature towards cloth books and board books instead of less robust library books. That’s more than her father can say.

Since turning five months old, Alina survived her first viral fever. (The pediatrician tentatively diagnosed it as hand-foot-mouth, but I doubt that that was the culprit because neither Peter nor I showed any of the hallmark signs of hand-foot-mouth when we caught the disease from Alina.) A couple days after that, she started sitting unassisted (no hands); a couple days after that, Alina had her last day of day care with Marie (who had decided to retire to Pennsylvania to live with her boyfriend), and a couple days after that, Alina cut her first two teeth.  Understandably, she did not eat or sleep well during this period of many transitions.  But after a few days of day care with Kathie, Alina started eating and sleeping better.  She is quite pleased that she is now able to sit independently and grab toys to chew on, and she has also figured out how to get onto her hands and knees, but I’m not ready to call her a crawler yet.  She’s very close, though, and I’m sure she will be very satisfied with herself when she finally gets to move around and decide for herself what she wants to play with and put in her mouth.  (Watch out, books and magazines!)

Son and I were somewhat productive during Peter’s absence.  Actually, it was mostly Son who was the productive one; I just held Alina, produced milk for Alina, and chauffeured Alina. Son, on the other hand, had the initiative to seal our driveway and build a patio. But I suppose that I can take credit for the mortgage refinancing.

Peter came home August 11th.  He had a lot of fun in Minnesota, but it was obvious that he was happy to be home. Or in Peter’s words, “I’ve had enough friends.” (When prodded, Peter specified that Gram and Grandpa fall into the “friends” category.)  My parents were likewise eager to get home after 9 days of camping on the North Shore and barely two days at home before it was time to return Peter to Massachusetts.  I, on the other hand, was eager to spend more time with my parents and persuaded them to stay until Friday morning when I pointed out that I had requested Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday as vacation days from work.  I ended up working Friday (to the surprise of my coworkers), my parents couldn’t catch a flight back to Minnesota until late on Friday (to their chagrin), and I needed to take sick leave on Monday and Wednesday the following week (c’est la vie).

But we did have a good time during their two-day visit.  (I guess I can’t speak for my parents, but I certainly had a lovely time.)  Alina’s baptism was held during the Wednesday morning mass.  I have no photos, but it was short and sweet.  Peter was antsy, but Alina enjoyed the mass as she always does.  Peter received a white bib as his baptismal garment, but Alina received a lovely crocheted lovey blanket with a cross  pattern.  After the baptism, we went refrigerator shopping. Our freezer defrosted the night before Peter came home, and the refrigerator warmed to room temperature shortly after that.  We had to be a bit creative with our recipes and food/breast milk storage techniques over the following week and a half until our new refrigerator arrived, but the end result – a cabinet-depth refrigerator which makes our kitchen look less cramped – was quite satisfying to achieve. Until we noticed that the doors were not hung in parallel to each other. We tried to have the refrigerator adjusted to compensate for this cosmetic flaw, and we tried exchanging the refrigerator for a better-aligned one, but it turns out that this is just a manufacturing flaw with the model we chose. Oh, well.

After refrigerator shopping, we had a lunch of Peking duck, spent time at the playground/liquor store and library/antique mall (according to the interests of each family member), had a mini photo shoot at the Old Stone Church, and got some salmon for dinner. Son returned to work on Wednesday, but I took my parents and the kids hiking rock climbing at Purgatory Chasm. (Peter seems averse to “hiking” since his return from Minnesota, but he agrees to come along as long as we call the activity, “rock climbing.”) After a picnic lunch and some time at the playground, we went blueberry picking at a family apple/grape/blueberry/blackberry farm. It was the end of the blueberry picking season, but my dad still managed to pick close to two gallons of blueberries. (Meanwhile Peter, to his credit, did a good job eating the berries.)

The fun continued on Saturday after my parents made it back to Minnesota. We went to the Bolton Fair, which turned out to be probably the most family-friendly fair I’ve been to (in Massachusetts, at least). Between the firefighters’ area, the percussion instruments booth, the animals, the arts and crafts tent, the giant sand pile, the rubber duck races, and the magician/musician/monster truck performances, there was plenty to keep young children busy.  (Peter is such a funny kid, though. He refused to watch the monster truck show because it was “too noisy,” but he LOVED learning about spinning yarn from elderly women in the spinning and weaving tent.)

Son had lunch with his postdoctoral research advisor in Boston on Sunday, so I took the kids to the Boston Children’s Museum while Son networked. Unfortunately, later that day was when Alina’s viral illness struck. The one good thing was that her fever was short-lived. It was gone Monday morning and did not return.  I was back at work on Tuesday, but Peter awoke with a fever that day, and I succumbed to the chills and spiked a temperature that evening. We all stayed home on Wednesday but were able to return to work and school on Thursday.

To get Peter ready for kindergarten, I took him school supply shopping at Target 11 days before his first day of school. He seemed to enjoy the “mommy and me” time since Alina tends to monopolize my attention (or at least my hands) these days. We used a birthday gift card that Peter had received from his great grandmother, so I let him splurge on an awesome Transformers backpack, Lightning McQueen lunch box, Transformers socks, a Transformers sticker book, a Planes Fire and Rescue book, and a United States geography workbook. Peter’s interest in geography persists. The next week, Kathie posted on facebook,’

While the children were painting some amazing sunflowers this morning, the conversation took an educating turn. A 5 year old states: “Australia is a country as well as a continent. Nauru is a tiny dot and has no capital.” I’ve never heard of Nauru, so when we were done painting … off to the computer we went. I love the education I receive!

Yup. That’s Peter for you. Still not sure where he learned about Nauru, but precocious readers do have a distinct advantage when it comes to picking up trivia like this. Kathie sent Peter him with map print outs of Nauru and facts about Nauru that she had looked up online. He was, of course, very fond of the maps. Kathie keeps telling me that she can’t wait to hear about the teachers’ reactions to Peter in kindergarten… and asking in meaningful way, “so how much does Peter’s teacher know about him?” We’ll see how the parent-teacher conferences go later this year; to me, Peter is just a “typical” precocious reader… right? I think I gave adequate warning: I let Mrs. Bianco know that Peter’s fine motor skills are weak and that he has been reading for about two years already.

I was generally in a happy, nostalgic mood when I put Peter on the school bus for the first time Wednesday morning. The school bus – and even the Transformers backpack – seemed decidedly too big for him, but I know he’ll grow into his new identity as a schoolboy soon. Mrs. Bianco reassured me that Peter had a great first day of school, but given that the day included a trip to the nurse’s office (presumably because Peter was looking tired, having stayed up too later the night before), getting on the wrong bus after school (despite the notes in his backpack, on the back of his nametag, and on the zipper of his back pack indicating that he should take bus 3 to day care), and a firm, “I’ve had enough kindergarten,” at bedtime Wednesday evening, I think it was a tiring and slightly stressful day for poor Peter.

Nonetheless, I was able to convince Peter to get back on the bus Thursday and Friday morning, and when he started bringing home work from school, I felt reassured that Peter was doing good things at school and having a good time.

As for me, my work is picking up. I was assigned to a new bear of a study two weeks ago… a large Alzheimer’s study with clinical sites spanning 5 continents (sorry, Africa). The list of required laboratory tests is long and complex, and many of the sites have trouble following our directions, creating a lot of challenged and some headaches. It is a good learning experience, though, and I’m sure I will also learn a lot from the study I was just assigned to this week. The latter study is just beginning the start-up phase, so I am excited to learn more about what goes into study start up (and to help avoid the headaches of my Alzheimer’s study).

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A four-month-old and a five-year-old

During your first week of life, you amazed me with your strength and will to live.

By one year old, you amazed me with your smile and joie de vivre.

By two years old, you amazed me with your precocious pattern and symbol recognition.

By three years old, you amazed me with your diplomacy and imagination.

By four years old, you amazed me with your tenacity and spatial thinking.

Now, at just five years old, you amaze me with your sensitivity and compassion.

I love you, Peter, so very much! I’m so thankful that I was able to bring you home.

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My little boy turned 5 last week. I had my typical moody spell the day before and the day of his birthday. Now that Peter is older, I really wanted him to have a delightful birthday, feel special, and know how very much I love him. I was therefore disappointed when we arrived in downtown Newport, RI Sunday, July 12th, and found that my plans to take him on a birthday train ride were foiled. The Newport scenic railway line had recently changed ownership, and the Sunday train schedule I found online for the Old Colony and Newport had been replaced by a Saturday Newport and Narragansett Bay Railroad schedule.  We still had a fun day of eating ice cream, touring the Vanderbilt family’s Marble House, eating Thai for lunch, and playing along the surf at Brenton Point State Park, but part of me felt bad because we weren’t spending the day as Peter would have chosen. And because I had similarly failed to take Peter on the Winnipesaukee Railroad in May. Peter didn’t complain at all, but I had really wanted to delight him the way I had when we visited the Seashore Trolley Museum in Kennebunkport, ME.

That trip, in contrast, was pretty successful. Son proposed that we stay in Ogunquit for our anniversary weekend. Ogunquit lodging was quite full, but I found a competitively priced motel in Wells, just north of Ogunquit. On Saturday, we visited the Trolley Museum, enjoying their extensive (if somewhat rusty) collection of mass transit vehicles, a ride in a “breezer” to a makeshift trolley park, and most importantly, their set of toys in the Kids’ Corner of the indoor exhibit. We then drove to Wells Reserve and walked through the reserve to the beach. Peter had fun wading in a tidal pool; Alina found the strong wind exhausting and fell asleep in her K’Tan. We had a nice dinner at a Thai restaurant near the motel, and Peter fell asleep early, tired from the day’s adventures (and a cold).

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The next day, we had an over-priced but very tasty breakfast at a nearby bakery; I had a strawberry scone, part of Peter’s fruit cup, fresh squeezed orange juice, and a hot chocolate. We spent some time along the shore after breakfast, played in the motel’s pool before checking out, put quarters in some antique music-playing devices at the antique cars museum, and then browsed a couple antique malls in Wells, the unofficial antique capital of Maine. My biggest disappointment with that trip was the restaurant I picked for lunch; I knew it was a fast seafood place, but I didn’t appreciate how greasy the food was until we placed our order. Oh, well. At least my breakfast was lovely. And the walk along Marginal Way in Ogunquit was lovely despite the crowd. Overall, it was a beautiful anniversary.

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Peter’s birthday was beautiful in the end, too.  I had bought him a set of three monster trucks at ToysRUs on Saturday after the Johnson Matthey summer picnic at Kimball Farm.  He had fun playing with them, but he spent most of his birthday evening assembling a Lego Arctic Ice Crawler, Kathie’s gift to him. Son was skeptical that he would be able to assemble the vehicle, but he actually did a really good job following the instructions that came with the set. I just gave him some guidance when he had trouble picking out the correct piece to use or the correct alignment for it. Son cooked dinner, and I baked the requested homemade berry birthday shortcake. I sort of messed up the whipped cream by over-beating it, but Peter didn’t complain. Son even liked it because it wasn’t very sweet.

The next day, Alina turned 4 months old and had her 4-month pediatrician appointment. She weighed in at an impressive 13 lbs, 4 oz (30 percentile) and measured 24.75 in long (60 percentile) with a 41.25 cm head circumference (70 percentile). Alina has become very sociable over the past two months and flirted with the doctor quite a bit. But then came the Evil Prevnar vaccine. Poor Alina cried and cried as though she were distraught to have been betrayed by the seemingly friendly pediatrician who had inflicted her with such pointless pain. (Pointless from an infant’s perspective, at least.)

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My mom arrived from Minnesota Thursday afternoon. It was the first time she had seen Alina since her first week of life; what a difference those first four months make!  Most notably, she is now purposeful and sociable.  She thinks she can talk and will coo to herself, flirt with others, and even squeal repeatedly as if it were a primitive form of song.  She hates potholes and other bumps in the road but enjoys grabbing toys (including her feet) and bringing them to her mouth.  Her favorite activity, though, is watching other kids play.  She used to really like her Kick ‘n Play bouncy seat, but of late, she seems to think that she is too mature to rest in such a reclined position; she protests and attempts to do a sit up in the seat (with some degree of success). She does enjoy doing tummy time by herself for a few minutes… she can fully extend her arms during tummy time or raise her chest while using her arms to grab toys.  Eventually, though, she realizes that vigorous leg kicking won’t actually move her to another area of the room and gets tired of lifting her chest and reaching for toys within arm’s length.  She does pivot and manage to scoot herself forward sometimes.  I haven’t seen her roll from back to belly on her own, but she doesn’t require much help to complete a roll when I see her attempting to roll onto her belly.  She does roll belly to back more than Peter did.  She seems to think she can walk and likes to stand, sit supported, and stand up from a sitting position with a bit of help. She has some success with tripod sitting but eventually ends up flopped forward onto her belly.  I let her face outward in the K’Tan when we go on walks so that she can see more. She obviously enjoys her now-well-developed sense of sight and taking in the world around her. She will watch videos and TV shows for a couple minutes if Son or I am watching them while holding her.  She seems interested in books but invariably tries to eat them while I read to her. She drools like crazy and sucks her hand and fingers, apparently working on some teeth. She no longer is interested in her pacifier, so I let her snuggle and chew on a sift lovie with a rabbit’s head in one corner.

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I’m not sure about the Wonder Weeks theory. At least not the “stormy period” part of the theory. Alina (like Peter) is now generally a happy baby; she just demands the appropriate mix of food, sleep, and entertainment. Intestinal gas now only occasionally causes spells of angst. The cognitive aspects of the theory still make sense, though. I can see her meeting cognitive milestones in the manner described.  Maybe a little on the early side; the Wonder Weeks book describes weeks 14-17 as being the fourth “stormy period” with new skills not really emerging until 17-19 weeks.  I am the proud and unobjective mother, but I think Alina’s fourth leap skills started becoming apparent about 14 weeks after her due date.

I took my mother, Peter, and Alina to Kimball Farm (again) for the PAREXEL summer outing last weekend. There were more crafts and age-appropriate games for Peter to do that weekend. We even received a card loaded with $20 to use at their midway, and Peter had a blast spending a few dollars on a snowmobile video game before getting slightly overwhelmed by the lights and noise of the midway. Perhaps we’ll go back sometime before the end of the year to spend more of the midway card and enjoy more of the awesome Kimball Farm ice cream.

Peter seems to be having a lot of fun in Minnesota. My mom took him to the science museum, the new city splash pad, a playground, the library, and the county fair this week. I don’t mind at all during the work week, but I do miss Peter on the weekend. Especially when we go grocery shopping, and I don’t need to buy his favorite foods… or when I see kids’ activities that Alina is too young for but Peter would love… or when I see his flowers blooming. They started blooming a week late again this year, but they are now blooming in full force.

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Back to work!

Alina and I survived my first two weeks back at work.  Actually, Alina did more than survive; she did really well at day care.  She enjoys watching the other kids, being bottle fed every two hours, taking consistently scheduled naps in the car, and having her diaper changed more frequently than Mom would bother to change her.  (At least Mom does change her; Dad seems to think that fathers are not allowed to change the diapers of their female offspring.)  As for me, I’m a bit tired.  I can’t blame Alina, though; she has been sleeping stretches of up to 7 hours.  The problem is that going to bed at 9 and getting up at 5 leaves little extra time to get in my sleep quota for the night if Alina and I do not fall back to sleep immediately after she feeds.  And though I can tolerate our strict schedule during the work week, I get somewhat grumpy when Alina wakes me up at 5 a.m. on the weekend and I watch my husband sleep in until 9 a.m., when I finally hand the baby over to him and pump some milk for Alina to drink because she can’t be bothered to nurse during regular daytime hours.  I am thankful that Alina takes her bottles readily, but I feel disappointed and worn out when she indicates through her cries and protests that she would rather have a bottle of milk than nurse from the tap.  At least she still nurses for me at night fairly well.  And at least she sleeps for respectable stretches.  On the worst nights, she sleeps a 3-hour stretch and then wakes every couple hours after that.  On the best nights, she sleeps a 7-hour stretch, i.e., “through the night.”

Alina really has been a good, happy baby these past two weeks, so I have the feeling that she did hit Wonder Week 8 early.  She now really enjoys kicking in her bouncy chair, making the sounds and lights go off.  She coos and smiles and flirts with us when we hold her.  She loves to be carried around with her belly resting on my forearm.  She loves to nap in my arms on the brown sofa, but she also naps on her own sometimes.  We haven’t been walking the Rail Trail since I went back to work, unfortunately, but she enjoys sitting outside with us while we barbeque or eat dinner.

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I’m trying cloth diapers for the first time today.  I bought a grab bag of various pocket diapers off e-bay.  So far, the Kawaii Baby, Sunny Baby, and Diaper Safari diapers seem to be a success, but the SimplyCloth and Alva diapers seem to be too big.  This is not too surprising, given that the diapers are One Size and Alina weighed in at 10 lbs, 1 oz at her 2-month pediatrician appointment.  I was expecting her to weigh closer to 11 lbs, but Alina is turning into more of a lightweight than her brother.  She was average length at 22.5 in, making her about 10 percentile weight-for-length.  The difference, I think, is that Peter took bottles for comfort.  Alina does not nurse for comfort, and though it seems that she might like to take bottles for comfort, she is not permitted unrestricted access to bottles as Peter was.

Work has been slow for me thus far.  I don’t mind because I know this is just a brief calm period before I get assigned to projects and have a continuous stream of things to take care of.  So far, I have mostly been reading documents, helping with the binding of lab manuals, attending a few meetings, and making mock lab kits  I have training on LoMaS, PAREXEL’s laboratory operations management software, scheduled for Wednesday, and then I will be able to do more typical lab specialist tasks.  Happily, my manager is obviously very pro-family and work/life balance, and members of my team frequently work from home when appointments conflict with the regular work hours.  The other North American lab logistics team members have been very helpful and welcoming – even giving me a Babies ‘R Us gift card upon my return to work.  I hope to be able to make greater contributions to the team’s productivity in the coming months.

For Memorial Day weekend, we went to the EcoTarium on Saturday and had pho for lunch at Hien Vuong.  On Sunday, I had well-laid plans to drive up to New Hampshire, take a scenic 1-hour ride on the Winnipesaukee Railroad, visit our former neighbor, Rita, and have lunch with her, and then stop at a local beach with a playground for Peter before heading home.  Unfortunately, after we got to the train depot, I realized that I had written down the address for the wrong depot; this one only had 2-hour rides.  So we went to visit Rita first.  Rita looked good and was very kind to us, fixing hamburgers, salad, and strawberry shortcake for lunch and offering Peter toys to play with.  We were happy to see that she had settled into her new home well.  We then bustled off to try to catch the 3 p.m. train from the correct train depot, but after we started driving, I found that the address was not recognized by our GPS.  We  nonetheless made it to the depot just before 3 p.m., only to find that all the parking spots were occupied.  The depot was on a beach in a resort area, and with a high around 80 degrees, the streets near the depot were teaming with tourists.  Peter and Alina had fallen asleep during our drive to Weirs Beach, anyhow, so we turned our car around and headed back towards Massachusetts.  As we neared Concord, though, Peter awakened, and Son was inspired to try to see an attraction, after all.  We drove right up to the capitol building; the shiny gold dome was hard to miss!  Then, seeing that the planetarium was “only” 1.2 miles away, we decided to enjoy the weather and walk there.  It was probably closer to 2 miles walking distance, and the planetarium was closed when we arrived, but we enjoyed the model of the Mercury-Redstone rocket in the plaza in front of the planetarium.  We stopped at Friendly’s for ice cream on the walk back to the state house and finally made it home after 8 p.m.

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I stayed home today.  We had Son’s coworker, Ivan, over for dinner.  Son proudly put our new grill to work cooking shrimp, meatballs, chicken, and corn.  Ivan had introduced us to SwissBakers in Allston last weekend when the bakery/café was having its anniversary celebration.  They had a magician, a yodeling accordionist, tours of the bakery, and generous free samples of pretzel bites, macaroons, tarts, Bavarian cream, Lindt chocolate, etc.  There was also an outdoor area for kids with ride-on toys that effectively earned SwissBakers the title of Peter’s Favorite Restaurant.

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Mother’s Day was also lovely.  I received an Irish silver bracelet from my darling husband, and we had fun in Boston Common and the Public Garden.  Now I have to figure out something nice for him for Father’s Day and our anniversary…

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The Wonder Weeks

I first heard about Wonder Weeks a couple years ago.  At first thought it was a marginal infant development philosophy.  Then I saw more and more references to the Wonder Weeks and wondered why I hadn’t heard about them when Peter was a baby.  Turns out that the first edition of the book, The Wonder Weeks, was published March 29, 2010 by a Dutch publisher, so it hadn’t caught on yet when Peter was a baby.

Peter was a more laid back baby than Alina.  He didn’t cry unless he had a good reason to and was generally easy to soothe.  (Just stick a bottle in his mouth.)  Alina is easier than Peter in some ways, but she does fuss more than Peter did, and she nearly brought me to wits end last week.  So I picked up a copy of The Wonder Weeks in hope that it would help me understand and cope with my daughter’s witching hours… and days.

The concepts (and research that the theory is based on) are pretty intriguing and do seem helpful.  I wasn’t a big believer in infant growth spurts based on my experiences with Peter’s growth and appetite, but these neurodevelopmental spurts are somehow more convincing to me.  Of course, I was immediately wooed when the authors acknowledged that development begins at conception and therefore readers should use their baby’s original due date when predicting the timing of Wonder Weeks.  Peter did make me a firm believer in the use of “adjusted age.”

The first Wonder Week is supposed to occur at 5 weeks.  This Wonder Week signifies increased sensory processing capabilities and is marked by increased fussiness followed by a calm period as the baby enjoys her newly developed skills.  Coincidently, Alina’s fussiness reached a climax last week, about 5 weeks after her EDD.  This week has been a “fair weather” week as predicted by the book.  I felt like Wonder Week 5 lasted longer than predicted (i.e., more than a week), but perhaps that’s because the Wonder Week overlapped with the “normal” fussiness crescendo from 2-3 weeks to 6 weeks?  (Again, this wasn’t something I recall experiencing with Peter.)

Here are the changes predicted by the book that I’ve noted to roughly coincide with this developmental leap:

  • Looks at things longer and more often (Alina now likes studying faces while being held, stuffed toys during floor time, and high-contrast objects in general.)
  • Listens to things more often and pays closer attention (She doesn’t ignore my singing any longer.)
  • Smiles more often than before (I believe we’re getting some social smiles in addition to contented baby smiles now, but she’s still not as smiley as Peter became 8 weeks after his EDD.)
  • Gurgles with pleasure more often (Her vocabulary has expanded; it’s no longer just sighs of exacerbation.)
  • Startles and trembles less often

I read ahead to the Wonder Week 8 chapter, the developmental leap where babies should become aware of patterns and gain some conscious control over their bodies.  I feel like Alina already reached some of those milestones, but perhaps I’ll note a difference in a couple weeks, when we get 8 weeks post-EDD.

  • Holds her head upright when she is very alert (She still needs head support or she will quickly tire and flop over, though.)
  • Turns her head toward something interesting
  • Rolls from belly to back  (May not be intentional, though.)
  • Kicks legs and waves arms (All the time! She is starting to appreciate the bouncy seat.)
  • Allows herself to be pulled into a sitting position
  • Allows herself to be pulled into a standing position
  • Tries to lift head and body when lying facedown (She has been lifting her head to turn it during tummy time since at least her EDD, though.)
  • Shows an increased desire to sit
  • Swipes at toys
  • Is fascinated by brother playing nearby
  • Makes short bursts of sounds (and will have short “conversations” with me.)
  • “Chats” to and smiles at cuddly toys

We’ll see how well the Wonder Weeks timeline coincides with Alina’s development.  It is an interesting way to track milestones.

I return to work next week.  Last week, I was worried that Alina would make Marie miserable with her incessant need to be held, but my baby does seem more independent this week, so I think everything will be alright.  I also worried that we would have routine screaming during our commute, but Alina no longer seems to hate car rides.  I am again glad that my baby will be close to my workplace (in case I get separation anxiety during the initial weeks at work).

Overall, it has been a nice maternity leave… much nicer than the weeks I spent in the NICU with Peter.  I took a respectable number of cute baby photos (after the acne cleared up) and made baking soda clay hand impressions (using Alina and Peter’s hands).  I walked dozens of miles back and forth on the Rail Trail, especially during Alina’s fussy weeks.  And we had some fun excursions with Peter, visiting the Boston Children’s Museum, the Discovery Museums in Acton, and the Providence Children’s Museum.  Peter is happy that playground weather has arrived, and Alina enjoys sleeping through mass on Sundays.  We learned to enjoy bath time together (thanks in part to the past week’s heat wave), and we have even gotten a decent amount of sleep.

In some ways, it feels odd to have had a “typical” pregnancy and now be enjoying my “typical” baby.  (And also be dealing with “typical” baby problems like cradle cap and evening fussiness.)  Peter’s early birth had a big impact on me, and I developed a strong identity as a mother of a preemie.  Now I’m a mother of a preemie AND a termie.  I took Peter and Alina to the Parents of Preemies Day event at the UMass NICU last weekend.  Peter was wearing his preemie t-shirt with his birth statistics, so it was obvious why we were there.  But in general, people were more interested in Alina, the cute little baby.  And of course, they asked the default question: “How old is the baby?”  I apologetically replied that she was 50 days old, knowing full well that there were babies in the NICU who were older than Alina.  It seemed a bit unfair that I got to tote around my big, healthy baby in the NICU while the other parents’ babies were tethered to vital signs monitors and oxygen supplies and IV pumps.  In a way, I suppose, the preemie mom part of me was jealous of the termie mom part of me.  The preemie mom part of me knew that Peter only weighed 4 lbs when he was 50 days old, while Alina was over 10 lbs.  And one of the moms at the event told me just that: her 50-day-old baby was about half the size of Alina.

I know it’s not fair to compare children, but Peter really did give us a unique (i.e., stressful) introduction to parenthood, and Alina gave us the chance to experience pregnancy and infancy the way it should be experienced.  I guess the combination of the two experiences gives me a deeper understanding of what it means to be a parent and greater empathy for other parents

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