I may forget

Last night I woke up suddenly because I was scared. I was scared that time is passing so quickly and that my little babies are growing up too fast. I feared losing time with them and missing them as they are now. This fear sent me into a frenzy as I left the warmth of my bed to go check on my babies. My 6 year-old was sound asleep in her new room because she was “upgraded” from sharing a bunk bed with her sister to a “private suite”. She wanted privacy and she is only 6! I almost bawled when I saw my eldest and first-born curled up in her big bed with a stuffed penguin (whom she still thinks is an owl) held tightly in her embrace. I am not sure why but an overwhelming sense of sadness came over me because I still remembered bringing her home when she was a week old. All 4 lbs 11 oz. and fiesty with some screeching screams and beautiful features. She was perfection as I held her in the crook of my arms. Now she is contemplating big things like what she wants for Christmas and which chapter book she will need to borrow from the library next. She is correcting my French and saying things like “Mommy, I can do it by myself- I am a big girl now!” Oh be still my heart. Be still.

I silently slip out of her room and unlock the door to the second bedroom that holds two more precious pieces of my heart. The middle daughter, filled with affection and sunshine is sleeping in the top bunk and her wild, curly hair has invaded almost the entire pillow. You can barely see her cherubic face as she nestles deeper into her covers. She senses my presence as I longingly stare at her only seeing the baby that stopped breathing three times and almost slipped from my grasp. At that moment, I was just so grateful and thankful that she survived the ordeals faced only at 8 hours old! She is now a spirited little 4 year-old who knows exactly what to do and say to get what she wants. Her sense of humour is outrageous and her thirst for life is out of this world. She is so emotionally in-tuned to her environment and she can sense tension, joy, worry, fear and sadness miles away. She is the only one of the three that melts into my arms and whispers “It’s ok mommy, I love you all day long all the way to heaven and back.” Her sweet voice and demeanour make me so sentimental because I feel like I lost out on some of her babyhood and toddler-hood because I had my third and last baby. He took the attention away from her and I regret not knowing where I spent my time. I don’t even remember her as a toddler because she was so quiet and content.

Then I quietly kneel next to my youngest. At two years of age, he is the prince of my universe. The light at the end of every day and the reason my entire existence becomes wholly meaningful. My son is a ball of energy with intensity much too high for a toddler. He is intelligent, persistent yet obedient. Naturally curious with an incredible fervor for life. To say I adore him is an immense understatement. I hang on to his every word, smile, breath and action. I nuzzle, cuddle, snuggle, tickle, sniff and kiss him every opportunity I get. I make him laugh then I hear him say “Shtop-Shtop mommeee. My face. My body.”

Be still my heart. Be still. When did he make the distinction between us? We were one soul attached at the hip. He used to cry when I would release him and now he is his own entity? He is ordering me to stop kissing him?

I can’t tell you how much I pray that he stays young. That he just stops growing. That time can just stand still. I love all three so much, it hurts. It literally…hurts.

Today when I asked my eldest to hold my hand when we were crossing the parking lot, I felt her tiny palm slip into mine and I almost cried. I realized that her palm won’t stay so tiny one day and that she will be out with friends and away from me. I almost crumbled right there on the spot. How can I just let my heart wander out there in the world without me? How will she survive without my watchful gaze or gentle redirection? (sometimes not so gentle). How will my baby girl just be making decisions that can impact her life and mine?

Be still my heart.

I want to warn you now if you are expecting, nothing hurts more than watching them grow up.

The labour pains, the c-sections, the sicknesses, the NICU, the worry, the guilt, the lack of sleep, the excruciating anxiety of whether you are doing this mothering thing right or not- NOTHING is more painful than blinking only to see your baby a 6-year-old!

I pray that they remain healthy. I pray that I can savour each stage of their lives in turn with as much passion and focus as I have allocated to my career, my marriage and my faith.

I hope that they know when they are grown that I never wanted them to grow- not because I am selfish but because I am much too afraid of letting go.

Thank you for listening. God bless.

Number Three!

TimbitSo our number three arrived last Thursday, November 5th and I couldn’t be more thrilled that HE IS OUT OF MY BODY. I am also thrilled that HE is a HE! We have two precious, beautiful girls and we really wanted a boy and so here we are.

This pregnancy, similar to my other two, was very high-risk. I am not sure why my body fights gestational activities but truthfully, I don’t think anything gorgeous comes easy. I am sure everyone experiences their pregnancies differently and I admire and envy mommies who can just go to the hospital and slip one of these babies out… me- not so much!

So I was being followed by Mount Sinai’s Special Pregnancy program for 6 or 7 different conditions including Blood Pressure and Gestational Diabetes. I was also very anxious and ended up on bed rest because of my sciatic pain which rendered me immobile. I wasn’t able to drive to work or to many places actually. Some days, I couldn’t even get out of bed. Apparently the fetus decided to grow behind my placenta (anterior placenta) and his head was right on my backbones!

Anyway, 9 months of pain and immeasurable misery at various stages and TA DA- Little Timothy was finally birthed. I was booked for a third C-section on the 13th but I started experiencing contractions on November 4th so they moved my surgery to the 5th. After being bumped 4 times because there were other cases more urgent than mine, I went in for the surgery that would surely lead me to meet the little angel who was rehearsing his circus  act inside my poor, tiny uterus.

We knew it was a boy and so we were anticipating his arrival in many ways. His sisters were also very involved and his eldest, 4-year-old, would often kiss my belly and tell the baby she loved him. So sweet- right??

A few observations before I continue on the third time around for women with C-Sections- it hurts. I was really anxious because I precisely knew the pain of recovery and everything that would happen. I sweated over the procedure every step of the way and anticipated the motions and process. What I did not anticipate was how difficult or intense the pain will be the third time they cut into the scars. Was it worth it- OF COURSE but would I do it again, I think not.

I was warned by the doctor that if I have another pregnancy, things may not be so easy. *Choking on sarcastic laughter* EASY? When did I ever have an easy pregnancy really?

My third child also terrified me. I had two other babies who were whisked away to the NICU for varying reasons (per my old posts) and I was shaking with the knowledge that this one surely will be taken away too…

My fears were realized soon after Timmy was born with fluid in his lungs. As sure as the sun rises, they whisked him off to the NICU in order to put on the ugly elephant-like machine called C-PAPP to help him regulate his breathing. Once again, I had to be wheeled into the recovery room alone as I watched all the other mommas coming out of their sections with their healthy, little, blanket-wrapped bundles of joy.

I was heart-stricken and heartbroken. I felt so inadequate and started blaming myself for my inability to create perfect babies like everyone else. Postpartum depression starts right then for me…

I was recovering in one of the postpartum rooms and at 3 am, I called the nurse, woke up the husband and had them wheel me to my precious little boy. Sure enough, he had more wires attached to him than a complex robotic machine. He was breathing erratically and poked on his little newborn feet. The IV was attached to his right foot and his left foot had cotton with band aids where they prick him to take blood samples. Even after two other births of babies in NICU, I still wasn’t prepared to see him like that.

I knew that this hospital had a very high level of care. I understood that they needed to intervene as soon as possible to resolve this. I heard them tell my that this is common and will go away. I listened intently and asked informed and educated questions because the same happened with his middle sister. I was wheeled back to my room and that night all I can think about was one thing… I still have not held him yet.

I kept hearing babies on the floor crying and saw daddies walking around to calm their newborns. I stole a glance at my sleeping husband next to me and started to question what he must be thinking. I was wondering if he was starting to feel like me… numb.

Day 2 was no different. Hearing varying stories from varying experts on his recovery time. He needed to be observed for at least another 24 hours but that afternoon, I was able to finally hold him and try to nurse him. I was so excited to feel him next to my skin and see his tiny cherub face with squinting eyes directed towards me. I had forgotten how fragile newborns are and at the moment, I found peace. He opened one eye and looked at me then trustingly sighed and nuzzled closer to my breast.

I was whole then. Complete.

Next day in the afternoon, our little Tim was released to our care in my room. I couldn’t put him down in his cot. I had him sleeping on me and feeding and I just held him tight and kissed him over and over again. I couldn’t get enough of his smell or his warmth.

It is day 7 now and I am still the same way. As I type this, he is sleeping soundly in his playpen. Angelic and peaceful. I can’t thank God enough for his blessed gift to us in the form of our son. The girls adore him. They kiss him and try to hold him. I observe their interaction with him and tears instantly appear in my eyes. I feel so blessed and so much love.

The story closes here… for now. Despite it all, I am so happy now. Exhausted and in pain but overjoyed at our little family unit. I wish all moms out there and those inspired to become moms all the best in their journey towards parenting.

We will surely be going through a similar experience soon since we already discussed the eventual adoption of more little ones to our family. I am doing some research now which I will report on in my blog if my readers wanted to adopt as well. I can learn and you can learn with me!

Ok, I have to go now and feed my little one. I will be writing an entire blog next time on the miseries of breastfeeding since this is my first time successfully nursing.

Until next time,

Smartignani

When did that happen?!

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There is nothing more painful or exhilarating than successfully potty training your child. You feel like you won an Oscar or climbed the highest mountain. The sense of achievement you felt the day you graduated or obtained your first real promotion is no comparison… as if you did this all on your own. Then the stark realization smacks you upside the head that this is what your parents must have felt like when you did something great growing up.

I don’t think I can be a prouder mommy than when my little toddler goes – “Mommy, I nee’ to Pee pee now”. We rush over to the toilet, we pull down the pants and then… the sweet sound of freedom- aaahhhh. No more pull-ups, stinky messes, nasty blow-outs or wet pants. Sooooooooo exciting!!

I look at my toddler and see the little preschooler emerging and ask – “When did that happen?!” – hence the title. But seriously, when did she start talking in complete sentences? When did she start empathizing with me (“Awww, mommy, you are so cute- are you hurt?”) When did she turn into this inquisitive, intelligent, insanely happy child?

These past few months have been challenging but fun. I have been busy trying to re-energize my business and manage my staff that I forgot to see the little changes in my big girl along the way. This morning she woke me up a little earlier and I spoke with her and played with her. She surprised me with how much she’d grown in the past three weeks. She knows which mitt goes where. She can put her boots on the right feet on her own. She understands that letters makes sounds. She know how to sing “A,B,C,D,E,F,G, next time sing, A,B,C,D,E,F,G” (and repeat) and she counted to 20!

I am in awe of how like her father she is becoming. It is really a good thing I love him so much because she reminds me so much of him. Her mannerisms, her thoughtful moments, her sweet affection and even her expressions. No surprise since she spends majority of her time with him instead of me.

I must confess that I am also tremendously enjoying my baby too. She shows me affection in her own way. She likes to be held at night and to sleep in my arms. Sure, it makes it tough for daddy to put her to bed when he is alone with her, but there is no stronger bond and no better feeling that having her fall almost instantly asleep when I carry her and rock her. She likes to hear me whisper to her and sometimes she just strokes me with her little, tiny fist. I feel especially blessed in those moments.

In the mornings, she is the happiest little baby I know. She just plays and rocks herself and flaps her little arms like wings. Her smiles and giggles are so contagious that she just subliminally compels me to pick her up so we can snuggle and play. Her demeanor is so different than her big sister. Her moods are so much milder and she is patient, calm and very stubborn!

I love them both 100% but differently. I can’t live without either of them and I am just so full of emotion when I see either of them hit a milestone or learn something new.

Between the one baby rolling and the other one peeing in the toilet, I feel like my heart can just burst with pride right now.

Until next time,

SMartignani

Multitasking Mommy

 

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So for those who know me, you know how busy I can be. I have varied interests and obligations and I thrive on being constantly and consistently booked. I don’t know why but that is what keeps me going (I sure don’t like that mommy in the image though… I wish!)

I am not complaining at all because I was blessed with so many gifts. This is one of those rare posts where I will side-step the sarcasm and defeat my natural inclination towards humour by counting my blessings.

To contextualize, two Octobers ago, I attended a wonderful feel-good session by an amazing guest speaker called Isabelle Fontaine and she told us an effective and unforgettable story about how she leveraged the feeling of gratitude to feel happy after a painful experience in her life.

 

So I am not taking this blog lightly (although my ulterior motive for this post is to explain why I haven’t posted for a long time, not an excuse- just an explanation).

Here are my blessings:

1) A God who is gracious, merciful, long-suffering and plenteous in mercy and compassion. And a Church that keeps me disciplined, deliberate in my faith and dedicated to the Lord (thank you SMSV).

2) A yummy hubby who loves me and spoils me. He cuddles me without asking and smiles my way when I need it most. How blessed I am with your love.

3) 2 beautiful daughters who appear to be surprisingly full of big personalities and vivacity.

4) My mom, dad, brother, sister, sister-in-law, nieces, nephews and parents-in-law (and Mike- ha ha) who support me, trust me and apparently find me worthy of their love.

5) An amazing business called Oxford Learning Centre with amazing staff and equally incredible families.

6) My best friends who supported me through the years and continue to be the solid splash of shining stars in the night sky of my day-to-day shenanigans.

7) My colleagues at work who are strong, beautiful and courageous- inspiring me to always be more than just good enough.

8) An awesome job at the Government of Canada that awaits me when I return from Maternity Leave. (The maternity leave itself is a blessing because I get an entire year off… I know my neighbours south of the border get only 90 days. Can you imagine leaving your baby so soon. My heart goes out to you- move to Canada!)

9) Every moment and every breath that I get on earth to live my life, cuddle my loved ones and realize my dreams.

10) My Car. I love my car. Oh and  thank you Youtube for teaching me how to knit.

Honestly, I think that is my top 10 list so far. There is so much more but I have to say the things above and the people mentioned do keep me pretty busy!

Until next time (which hopefully will be sooner than this time),

SMartignani

Perks of Parenting

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Here is the thing. The truth is being a parent is not all that bad. There is a silver lining to the sleepless nights, the irritating whining, the endless crying, the anxiety, the nasty poops and the interminable temper tantrums. I will not even mention the incessant screaming, embarrassing sounds and scents or the countless hours spent coaxing, rubbing, carrying, bouncing, singing, humming, gurgling, rasberrying, silly face making to appease/please/calm/restore/distract/heal/put to sleep/make’em laugh/discipline/show them you love them.

Where was I going with this? Oh yeah, the silver lining. Ok. So here is a list of some silly things you get to do as a parent that you could not do before (at least in public):

1) Your cartoon movie collection has now exponentially increased and surprisingly you stocked it with some classic movies that we all know junior will not even understand yet (Transformers? Voltron? Pink Panther? Felix the Cat? really??)

2) You have come to terms with the difference between what “messy” looked like before you had kids and now. A toy here or there and a book lying around your nice living room (where you greet guests) is not messy at all. As opposed to pre-children when you would dust, clean, mop and vacuum. Now we are lucky if we don’t trip over the tiny wind up car left on the floor by the stairs… there it is, I was looking for you car.

3) You realize now that naps are not a luxury but a necessity…for you. Not the kids.

4) Farting in public is so much easier now that you can blame it on the children!

5) Spit-up does not smell very bad after a couple of hours. It has a natural baby-je-ne-se-quoi scent to it that makes people lean in closer and nuzzle you.

6) Baby powder ain’t just for kids… fun fun fun for the whole family! We find remnants of that stuff in every orifice of the house afterwards!

7)  You don’t really need to hang out with anyone you don’t want to hang out with for extended periods of time because junior is going to get hungry/tired/manic/restless/sleepy/gassy/thirsty/sick… you decide on the excuse because we all know that is exactly what it is.

8) You realize that your true friends are the ones who will love you and your kids even through the stage of TEETHING when your child turns into Dr. Jekyll.

9) Moms, you look at yourselves in the mirror and feel good about how thin you are compared to when you were pregnant… the little hanging fold of skin is superficial. Bio Oil makes it disappear, trust Dr. Oz!

10) You never appreciated being alone with your spouse/friends more than when you can drop the kids off at the grandparents/baby-sitters and go out finally… there is an adrenaline rush that occurs accompanied by feelings of euphoria for the temporary freedom. Seriously though, you love your kids but everyone needs a little break dude.

11) You have an excuse to get to Church a little late… and leave a little early… and eat those yummy sandwiches first.

12) You develop a new appreciation for left-over, pre-digested food and candy and juices of all kind. Everywhere you go, you seem to be finishing your child’s plate/drink/sandwich

13) You have made up the words to at least three nursery rhymes/Christmas Carols/Songs/Hymns… like seriously… who knows all the words to Frosty the Snowman?

14) You are getting to be a master at skipping pages in a long storybook without your child noticing…

15) you are memorizing by heart all the words to Dr. Seuss books

16) You are definitely checking the time every 15 minutes when you get close to bed-time and you are secretly planning what you will do in the two hours from 8 pm to 10 pm after the kids sleep. So many exciting things to do, shall I knit or take a bath or cook tomorrow’s meal or catch up on the last episode of Big Bang or just, oh look its already 10 pm and zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

17) You most likely have your phone ringers off after a certain time as to not awake the kids so you really don’t talk on the phone much.

18) You recognize now how vital daycare is…no matter the cost… we will stop eating if it means 8 hours of peace and quiet!

19) You find yourself wondering the weirdest things before you go to sleep like why is the alphabet song is the same tune as twinkle, twinkle little star and who invented Sophie the Giraffe and why on earth you didn’t…zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

20) After a crappy day doing whatever it is you do, NOTHING and I mean NOTHING is better than getting a huge, sloppy, wet kiss from your kids or a genuine smile from your infant.

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If that’s not the silver lining, I don’t know what is!!

Until next time,

Smartignani

Choosing a Daycare- helpful advice for residents in Ontario, Canada

imagesI graduated from Early Childhood Education and I went on to Teacher’s College. I worked in several different daycares and since then, I have accumulated some knowledge in this area. So here is my list to help you when searching for the right place to leave your child.

Before I begin, I want to remind you that this is a very serious decision and it is often underscored or underestimated. Just think you are leaving your child at this other place for majority of the day. The daycare will be the main caregiver because their hours will outlast yours. So when you decide to hand your child over, you must know that this is a commitment of at least three years. Think of all the changes that take place in our life cycle between the ages of one and three; everything from potty training to emergence of self and cognitive pre-speech development. Most parents need to start thinking about childcare even before the child turns three months. For the really good places, there is usually at least one year waiting list. Start early in your research because this is one of the most important decisions that will affect your child’s earliest development and shape their formative years.

I am splitting this article in three distinct sections: Preparation, Processes and Payments.

 Section 1: Preparation

You will undoubtedly do a considerable amount of research in order to find the right daycare. Equip yourself with basic knowledge about what you are looking for and educate yourself with questions to further decipher whether it is a good fit. Ask yourself:

1)      Will I need full-time or part-time care?

2)       Do I want to send my baby or babies to someone’s home instead of a big centre?

3)       Do I need to see routines and activity plans?

4)      Am I looking for a formal setting with a licensed outdoor/indoor space?

5)       Is it more important for the daycare to be close to my home or work grandparent’s home?

6)      Is it important that the daycare has insurance coverage?

 Section 2: Processes

Please know that there are laws that govern childcare but they are not as extensive as the laws that govern the public school system. These laws are encapsulated in the Day Nursery Act (DNA) and you can access all the minimal conditions for licensing online. Inspectors ONLY inspect daycares that apply for licenses through the government. There are many daycares operating without a license and that is not necessarily a bad thing. Just like everything else, there are positives and negatives to a home daycare versus a formal childcare centres. However, the main three differences are the ratio of caregivers to children, the price and obviously the environment. I will split the next few questions you should ask while touring a potential childcare in two- Formal versus Informal (home daycares).

 Formal Childcare Centre:

1)      Are all the caregivers Registered Early Childhood Educators (RECE)?

2)      Is your outdoor space inspected annually or every 5 years?

3)      How often do you sanitize toys? (should be at least four times a week in infant room and twice a week in toddler room)

 Informal Daycare:

1)      What is your ratio? (Should be one adult to five full-time children- if there are two adults there should STILL only be five children because laws stipulate that it is the ratio set for the SPACE not the number of caregivers, many use this as a loophole but it really is not meant to be misinterpreted)

2)      Is there a separate dedicated space for food preparation? Naps? Toilet training? Outdoor play? Indoor play?

3)      What is the qualification of the caregiver?

4)      What happens when they are sick and unable to care for your child?

5)      Do they allow the children to watch TV? (that should be a “no no”)

6)      Do they accept cash discounts? Offer receipts?

*Please note that childcare payments are tax deductible.  (Do your math, because discounts gained on cash payments may not outweigh the benefit of the tax deduction)

All Daycares (observations and questions):

1)      What is their stance on discipline? On Soothers?  On Christian Holidays like Christmas and Easter? (You will need to continue whatever they teach at daycare to maintain consistency and ensure optimal results so you better be on board)

2)      How do they potty train the children? (In the potty or on the toilet or both)

3)      Do they take the kids outside every day? When do they NOT go outside? (Research shows that infants and toddlers should NOT be outside for longer than 15 minutes at a time in below zero weather. It is not good for their tiny frames no matter how covered up they are!)

4)      Are they able to keep a daily journal to keep you apprised of bowel movements, eating patterns, general behaviour and newly acquired skills and developmental milestones?

5)      Are they able to take photos throughout the day for you so you can keep them for memories?

6)      Can you log in and access the childcare surveillance equipment to “check-up” on your child? (I have mixed feelings about this because if you can log-in, imagine all the sick hackers out there that can also hijack the system and watch your child).

7)      How do they reinforce self-esteem and confidence? How do they teach children to be independent without being too detached?

8)      How do they teach children speech? Reading? Writing? Cognition? Self-feeding? Self-dressing?

9)      Is the space neat, age-appropriate, stimulating? Are there clear sightlines for the caregivers to see the children at all times?

10)   What are the policies on Disease control? Lice and other Contagions?

Payment:

1)      Always get a sibling discount if you have more than one child. What is the discount if you pay upfront for the entire year?

2)      Always ask how much it will cost if your child is unable to attend or is sick or has appointments? How much is it if you are late to pick up? Which stat holidays do they open/close? Will you pay if you book a vacation?

3)      Read the contract carefully, like anything else, this is a major investment but instead of money on the line, it is your own precious flesh and blood.

Just so you know, home daycares range from $750 to $1000 per month while formal childcare centres range from $1000 to $1500 a month for infants – be weary of the overly expensive centres that have a “unique” rationale for being too expensive. Honestly, not worth your time because children learn fast and more if the caregiver is loving and attentive than if the daycare is made of gold and gimmicks.

E-mail me if you have questions I have not covered – sylviamartignani@gmail.com

Until next time,

@Smartignani

 


I hate burping.

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I don’t think there is anything more exhausting than waiting for my two-months old to burp after a feeding at 3 am. The actual feeding takes about a half hour and then comes the pat-pat-patting and cajoling until I hear the soft or sometimes loud expulsion of air from her tiny body. Sometimes she sleeps half-pat and then waiting for a burp can take upwards of one hour or so. Then there is the occasional spit-up or gas that agitates her and causes us grief until it is resolved. She is so sweet and accommodating otherwise but in the wee hours of the morning with very little sleep and even less patience, it is very challenging to accept the whining. Truthfully, I think it is quite the show when I am awake and waiting for her because it is so funny when you can see that she is visibly fighting with her burp. Sometimes, while attempting to expel gas upwards, out escapes a little fart. Too funny.

Taking about farting, no one told me how tough potty training my little toddler can be.

Whopotty training (2) knew the fear of the toilet that would embed itself so deeply in  my two-year-old’s brain or the irrational anxiety that rears its ugly head every time we ask her if she pooped.  At daycare, she sits on a small potty and plays while waiting for her bladder or bowel to move but at home, she is in instant denial when asked if she needs to go. It’s almost like she is ashamed to go around us, what’s up with that? I understand there are many ways to potty train and one effective method is taking the weekend off and just putting her in underwear where we can expect many accidents to take place until she gets it. Between you and me, I am not looking forward to asking her every two seconds if she wants to go to the washroom and I am definitely not looking forward to the bed wetting accidents and the nasty bathroom seats we have to experience afterwards. Most of all, I am not looking forward to letting go because once she becomes potty trained, she will truly be a child and no longer my baby. My heart is aching every time I see her growing up which is every day! Each day she comes home from daycare and each day I notice a difference. If you are a parent you will agree that this is a tough pill to swallow no matter how bittersweet it is.

I know I said this before, but I appreciate my mom a lot more now. Every time I see her, I understand a little more how good she was to us. And my daddy of course. I also appreciate my husband a lot more. He does so much for our family.

I am glad that the holidays are here because I can’t wait to buy the tree and decorate our house. The older one will definitely understand a little more this year and maybe even appreciate some of the presents while the baby can be just that this year… the baby of the family.

Until next time

SMartignani

What a place… RONALD MACDONALD HOUSE in HAMILTON

I promised I would so I will… While in Hamilton awaiting my baby’s discharge from the McMaster NICU, we stayed at the Ronald MacDonald House for $12 a night and man it was AMAZING!

First of all, the service and professionalism of the staff was stupendous. We were greeted late at night with a professional, kind, caring lady (Arlene) and we were given a great tour of the place. It looked and felt like a five star resort- incredible. As if it was not enough that we had a nice bed to sleep in and a comfortable place to stay so we can be with our sick baby in the NICU, they also had a chef that cooked us delicious dinners. Between the multiple amenities and cozy surroundings, we felt like celebrities. I would like to share some photos with you.

20130924_084013_resized  Well-kept hallways

20130924_084022_resized Beautiful décor

20130924_084045_resized Spacious

20130924_084107_resized 20130924_084115_resized Movie Room for families and siblings of NICU Babies

20130924_084201_resized Piano in the sitting area

20130924_084218_resized  Gorgeous furniture

Children's room Children’s Play Room (1 of 4 different areas for children)

Dining Room Sunny, gorgeous dining room where they provided a great breakfast daily

library  Library (1 of 2)

park  Outdoor playground for children

Reading Room 2 Fireplace and a cozy place to sit and read

Reception  Reception area with a waterfall

There is also a “secret” room for kids that ends with a magical place filled with new toys and they get to choose whatever they want. There is a room with a pool table and other games for adults. There is also a full out MOVIE THEATRE. There is a magnificent shared kitchen where families who are staying there for long can cook and store their food in the many refrigerators. There is also a laundry room that is clean and functional as well as a mother’s pumping room with a TV and a hospital grade pump. I was not able to take pictures of all the different spaces, but you get the idea!

The place is staffed with volunteers and sponsored in part by the Government of Canada, Province of Ontario and City of Hamilton. I am so impressed with the facilities and I wanted to give them a huge kudos in my blog for being there for the families of sick children. No one can imagine how difficult it is when your newborn baby is fighting for their life and their health. Each day is filled with mixed emotions from confusion, despair, fear, tension, anxiety, depression and insistent gloom. The last thing you want to worry about as a parent of a child in the NICU is where to sleep or eat. To be honest, if they were not there, I would not be eating or sleeping.

Thank you to the people of Ronald MacDonald House in Hamilton who gave us the luxury of not having to worry about our own health and well-being while we take care of our newborn baby girl. I was moved to tears by their kindness and generosity. They even gifted us with a beautiful quilt for our newborn.

I owe them so much and I would recommend them to anyone who has a similar experience.

Their website is: http://www.rmhhamilton.ca/

Here are some ways to donate and give back: https://secure.e2rm.com/registrant/tribute.aspx?eventid=57066&langpref=en-CA&referrer=http%3a%2f%2fwww.rmhhamilton.ca%2f

 

Until Next Time,

SMartignani

 

Jelly Bean’s Journey

Elise

It is time for me to narrate the journey we took as we welcomed Jelly Bean a.k.a Elise to our world and our family. This is no light reading and you may need to grab a cup of tea or coffee before you continue reading this lengthy and detailed blog entry. Be forewarned, this may incite some strong emotions in you.

I started blogging so other moms can relate, react, and generally learn from my experiences. I read other mommy blogs as well so I can learn from them too.

A Brief History:

In my first experience of becoming a mommy, I was disappointed and sad that my FIRST infant was swiftly snatched away from me to the NICU where she had to remain for 5 days in order to gain weight and be released back to us. I had severe preeclampsia in my last pregnancy and I gained an incredible amount of weight. I was induced for two days before being c-sectioned and after all the pain and misery, I was distraught with post-partum depression and the void that my newborn left in my room as she was rushed to the ICU. I was unable to announce her birth to our family or nurse her for two days. I was unable to hold her or have my husband join the other fathers that were walking the hallways to put their babies to sleep. 5 days later she came home and all the pain and agony was washed away by the joy and the hope she exudes everyday until now… as a gorgeous toddler.

Elise’s Journey:

There is much I want to cover in this piece but I will spare you the minute details for fear that you will think me incomprehensibly traumatized. I recall every second and every emotion as a mother but I will try to narrate as an observer so that you can get a clean view from the outside.

On September 19th, we dropped our little toddler to daycare early and checked in at the hospital. After the nurses pierced my veins with the IV and prepped me (which means asked me to undress and wear the lovely, couture blue hospital gown that is incessantly opens in the back). I was on stand-by for a 10 o’clock C-section but they got me in early. The anticipation was mounting because once again we decided to not know the gender and I knew that this pregnancy I did not have high-blood pressure and that the baby was at least 6 lbs. Which boded really well for my hope and dream to have the baby carried out  by my husband back to our room so that everything can be ‘normal’ and I can be given a better opportunity to try and breast feed my newborn.

After a nervous and somewhat brief pain in the back from the spinal, I was laying on the table when my husband came in wearing the blue scrubs given to him by the nurses. He was sterilized and amped to meet our new baby too. I said a prayer in my heart that all goes well and just lay there asking my husband questions and conversing casually while 6 or 7 people got to work at opening me up and extracting my organs and the small, wild child that was rocking my insides for the past 9 months. I cannot describe the deep sense of pride that I felt giving my husband our second child or the amount of joy at being able to withstand all the pain and agony of pregnancy leading up to that pivotal point in our life.

I was convinced that this time, this baby and this pregnancy were different. Everything will turn out perfect and yet deep in my heart, in the black depths of my soul, I hoarded a secret dread that something was going to go extremely wrong. This feeling of foreboding was a constant thorn in my side and it manifested itself in my dreams and waking hours. I experienced several small anxiety attacks which I brushed off as normal hormonal imbalances and standard pre-delivery jitters.

Elise was announced at 10:17 am and scored a 9 on the Apgar scale. She was feisty and the nurses even called her a drama queen which made me laugh. Everyone commented on her extremely long fingers and toes. She was 6 lbs. 5 oz. at birth and I couldn’t even wish for anything more. I insisted that my husband go get her but they were busy cleaning her and readying her. I was feeling the same sense of anxiety as before but this time it was overwhelming. I was nauseated by it which led me to be occupied with my constant need to be sick that I didn’t hear the first time one of the nurses said “She is grunting”. It didn’t register. My husband was given our daughter who equally mesmerized him as our firstborn and I was able to see the grouchy little wrinkled face of my darling little angel. My C-section was just about to wrap up and we were minutes away from the scene I played over and over in my mind… I will be wheeled out to the recovery room with my husband holding my baby at my side as he takes her to show the grandparents waiting anxiously in the room.

Then it happened again… she grunted.

My husband called the nurse over to confirm the noise being expelled from my daughter’s chest to which she immediately reacted by carrying Elise to the NICU where, I was told, she will be kept under observation for one hour to assess her breathing.

Not again.

But one hour, I can deal with that. Fine.

I was in the recovery room where I was willing myself not to give into the powerful urge to sleep. I awaited my husband’s sporadic visits that would relay to me any tidbit or update about our new baby. He kept saying that they are just observing her breathing. One hour later, I was moved to my room and he came in and told me that it can take up to 6 hours.

5 more hours until I can smell her, hold her to my breast or whisper to her how amazed I am at her gift to me- making me her mommy.

I was unable to get up to visit her so I relied heavily on my husband to share every detail. I fell asleep tormented that I was unable to hold her and awoke to the news… she will not be leaving the NICU for at least 24 hours. Elise had fluid in her lungs that was prohibiting her from taking deep breaths and she needed the oxygen they were providing her. I was crushed, Patience and prayers were all I had left and the first was exhausted by the mistakes made while the latter was weakened by my debilitating recognition of my fears being actualized.

Please read the next part with an understanding that I am a mother who needs to vent and warn other moms of what can be. I write this free from malice. I simply state what I experienced,

A Tough Journey:

I visited my baby as soon as I regained some form of feeling in my legs. It was the only highlight to the searing pain I felt in my abdomen as a result of the foot long cut made on me hours earlier. I asked my husband to haul me into a wheel chair and take me to my baby. I needed to be with her and see her. It was all a recurring theme from my first delivery and I was not taking no for an answer. He complied and I was wheeled to her little cot situated in the back of the dark, sterile and sombre Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. She had many tubes attached to her with two different monitors and several other ‘leads’ that measure her heart beat and her breathing. She was taking very shallow, quick breaths and seemed unable to catch her breath even with the CPAP (Oxygen tube) that was attached to her face. The mask on her nose seemed too small and did not sit right on her tiny little nose. It often crept down to suck in the top lip and at times I wondered what this machine was designed to do at all, it seemed quite ineffective. I was informed that she may have swallowed Meconium which is the yukky stuff in my belly. The doctor in charge put her on antibiotics because he thinks it is an infection. I was told that sometimes it takes up to 72 hours for the breathing issues to resolve on their own (which was incorrect because I learned later that something should have been done after 8 hours). I was repeatedly told that they are waiting on her, a day old baby, to resolve her own breathing issues. Levity was attempted through the joke that boys usually take longer to resolve this particular issue and that she was behaving like a boy. I kept hearing the nurses joke with her that she needs to stop “misbehaving” and start “breathing properly”. I was insulted and incredibly enraged by these words and uttered whispers to my newborn.

I patiently waited to see if my baby will “resolve” her own breathing issues but deep in my heart I knew that she would not. Something needed to be done but what? I am not a doctor nor do I have any information at all about what these things mean.

That was Thursday. Friday was more of the same bad news. She was still not breathing or “behaving”. She was still on the CPAP and she was being given glucose through her IV to nourish her. I was asked to pump so that they can dip a Q-tip into the colostrum that I pumped and wet her lips with it. I was still unable to hold her. Friday night I was at her bedside pumping with my mother-in-law when Elise stopped breathing for the first time. The nurse said it was because she was pushing hard to have a bowel movement. She notified the pediatrician on duty and alerted us that if this happens again, the doctor will come see her. They were trying to take her blood. I left at midnight and demanded that the nurse awaken me if ANYTHING happens. I wanted to be there if she decides to stop breathing again.

At 2 am, I opened my eyes and found Elise’s nurse in my room. She told me that she “desatted” again and that the doctor came in to see her. I took my pain killers and anxiously waited until their effect can somewhat dull the extreme pain in my abdomen. I rolled out of my bed and painfully walked over to my wheel-chair. They had placed me in the furthest room away from the NICU so I was to half roll myself and half walk towards my goal while heavily leaning on the chair. No one offered to help me, no one thought to move my room so I can be closer to my baby who just stopped breathing TWICE and needed me by her bedside.

I finally arrived at my destination and asked, politely, to see the doctor. I was talking to my daughter’s attending nurse but the nurse sitting behind her playing Soduko at the computer quickly replied without looking at me and said “She is busy in the Emerg”. Apparently my daughter’s inability to continue breathing was not an emergency and I had to wait. I informed them that I would wait but the nurse clearly told me that she will only page her if anything else happens. I WAS SUPPOSED TO WAIT FOR MY DAUGHTER TO STOP BREATHING AGAIN TO SEE THE DOCTOR!

What?!

I stayed by her bedside until 5 am. She was fine. Labouring to breathe but all vitals were ok and still she was taking shallow breaths. I was completely and utterly exhausted and finally gave up on seeing the doctor. So I informed the nurse that I will make the trek back to my room but if anything happens yet again, I want to be there BEFORE anything is done.

Funny enough, I was speaking to my husband the night Elise was born and he was not happy with the progress or lack thereof that was taking place with her in that NICU. He even told me that he is giving this specific hospital until Sunday then he will be requesting that Elise gets moved to a different facility. This was really frustrating him and it struck a deep fear within me. I was unable to shake the feeling of pure and utter mistrust in their care for the remainder of that fateful night. This goes to show you that you MUST FOLLOW YOUR PATERNAL/MATERNAL GUT INSTINCTS because he was right!!

At 5:45 am, my daughter stopped breathing for the third time. I rushed to the NICU and waited for 45 minutes while the doctor finished consulting with Sick Kids on the phone. She finally came to speak with me and inform me that my baby girl was simply tired of breathing. What a profound notion… and I say that sarcastically.

I was incensed and I told her that I knew this would happen and I don’t even hold a medical degree. I asked her what the next steps were and she informed that they would have to intubate her. I had already did some research on Google (it was all I can do at that time of night prior to this conversation) and attempted to ask some informed questions like “Will you intubate her nasally or orally?”, “What are the risks?”, “Will you sedate her?”, “Have you done this before?”.

I felt no confidence in their ability to intubate her successfully but what choice did I have. I pulled a chair and sat about 12 feet away from my baby’s tiny sized cot that was now surrounded with the head nurse of the NICU who was cracking some jokes, the Respiratory Therapist (who was chewing gum, open-mouthed which I think is not sterile nor code compliant), the doctor who was too busy in Emerg to see me the first two times and the attending nurse who informed that swallowing meconium was a fact of life and everything will be fine.

15 minutes into the procedure I was politely asked to wait outside until they were done. I called my husband and asked him to make arrangements for our toddler and come to the hospital right away. I make this next statement with all the firm belief I possessed at the time… I actually thought that our daughter was going to die.

He arrived and joined me in waiting for the nurses to come out and tell us what is happening with the baby. I saw them changing shifts and finally saw the attending nurse leaving to go home. She came over and asked if anyone came to get us and talk to us yet (she was supposed to do that right after the procedure) and we replied “No”. So she told us that the procedure was complete and to go in.

We did. Our daughter was in a deep sedated sleep. I asked how it went and they said it was done. Sick Kids were on the way and they were going to decide what to do next. A respiratory therapist and a nurse practitioner show up with an elaborate 300 lbs. piece of equipment attached to an Isolette that is clearly designed for transporting sick babies. I am told that she needs a higher level of care and that the Sick Kids coordinator is deciding on the hospital that she will be transferred to. Sick Kids and Mount Sinai are too busy and they don’t have beds. She may be sent out of region. Maybe even Kingston. Ottawa or London, Ontario. I go back to my room because they will need at least 45 minutes to find out.

I only slept one hour that night so I break down. I cry like the world is coming to an end. I was experiencing the most gut wrenching moments ever which will haunt me for a long time. My husband tells me to try and relax but I am devastated.

I recall the my first experience in the NICU and the mom who had gestational diabetes and had to have her baby transferred to Sick Kids. I recalled the empathy I felt for her. I cried just as hard as she did even though it was not my baby. Now I was that mom.

We are informed that she is being transferred by ambulance to McMaster Children’s hospital where she will be receiving level 3 care. I get discharged early and head home to repack my bag and quickly rest before we head down to Hamilton, Ontario for as long as needed until we can bring our baby girl home.

We arrive at 6 pm on Friday night and we are informed that many tests have already been done on Elise. The NICU is leagues above and beyond the first one. The level of care, professionalism and atmosphere spoke to me instantly. I felt like the nurses were proficient and competent. Every half hour, a nurse, respiratory therapist or doctor would approach us and give us updates. They kept us informed and helped us secure a room in the Ronald MacDonald House across the street for $12 a night (my next blog will illustrate how amazing THAT experience was- they need their own shout out for being awesome to us).

We return to the hospital and they ask me to pump because they have attached a feeding tube to my baby girl and she needs my milk. They give me the entire Medela pumping kit and a sterilization bag (at no cost, where as the previous hospital charged us). They were consistently positive and confident that Elise will be fine very soon. THEY FINALLY LET ME HOLD HER after 5 days, I was smelling her hair and feeling her against my skin. I was in awe of her little body next to mine as her breath fanned my neck and I felt her little tiny heart beat moving her chest up and down. It is indescribable how the wait crystallized that moment and made it a million times more special.

I can’t describe the tumultuous roller-coaster of emotions I have experienced up to that moment when I finally felt the sudden release of worry that I harboured in the depths of my heart. I just knew that all will be well. And from that moment on… everything changed.

Within mere days, Elise was improving. Her breathing was even. They extubated her on Sunday morning. She was breathing with very little help from the CPAP machine. I was informed, indirectly, that it took them 4 times to intubate her and after all this, they used the wrong size tube which the RT referred to as “trying to breathe through a straw”.

I decided at the time that I need to focus on the incredible journey that my child was making. I was going to keep my mind on the amazing health care that Elise was getting and her obvious fighting spirit.

I was blessed with calls, texts and visits from priests, friends, family and co-workers. Many people needed constant updates which kept me busy and increased my cell phone bill considerably. I was starting to feel a tentative dependency on the NICU and the positive nurses who lived up to their job descriptions and “nursed” my baby girl back to health. I was told on Tuesday night that we need to check out of the Ronald Macdonald house because they would put us in a courtesy room for parents and release Elise to us for the night so we can call on them if anything happens.

It was a fantastic night. I held her all night. I let her sleep the entire night on my chest. Matching my breathing to hers. I was too elated to sleep and I was never happier to lose so much sleep at night. Every time she woke up, I was awake with her. I would smile at the little noises she would make and I found every little movement she made impossibly sweet. I missed my toddler so much and I was so anxious to bring Elise home and be with both my girls.

We were discharged with Elise on Wednesday, September 25th and we rushed home to pick up our firstborn from daycare.

We were home.

We were thankful.

We were finally a complete family all in the same space, together.

Hold your loved ones closer. Tell them you love them. Hug them and let them know that they alter your life. I can’t tell you how much more I appreciate my girls and husband since this bitter-sweet experience.

I will cover how my toddler reacted to her baby sister in another blog. For now I leave you with one final thought…

You are never given any experience you cannot handle. Raise your chin up from the misery and look around you. You are surrounded with people who love you and care for you and only through the hard times will you see true friendships shine. I am so grateful for those people in my life who asked, who cared and who were in constant contact offering words of wisdom, comfort and reassurances. Thank you for your prayers and for your love. We felt it from Hamilton and we are ever grateful.

SMartignani

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