Monday, December 30, 2013

Best Christmas Gifts!

Hard to believe Christmas was almost a week ago now. Obviously, my favorite Christmas present was my squirmy little peanut.

I might be biased, but girl is the cutest baby in the world.

Anyway- I had a GREAT holiday and, as if she weren't gift enough, I was lucky enough to score several great gifts. I won't list them all (Santa was SO generous-- too generous!!-- this year!!), but I will tell you about 2 pretty sweet ones.

First- my first post-Bailey race registration! I've run this race three times now, making this next one my fourth Sunburst. It was my VERY first race (a 5K) and currently has my half-marathon PR. My in-laws bought me the half-marathon registration for Christmas! They know me so well!! LOOOOVE it and cannot wait to run it.

What makes it even BETTER-- this race benefits the same NICU that Bailey was in for 10 days. I owe that NICU and their staff SO MUCH and am so excited to run this race for them. Cannot wait. 

Another great gift: A new 26.2 magnet for my car!! Mine was stolen this summer and I've been meaning to get a new one forever, but just haven't gotten to it. 

The Hubs gained major husband points for this gift! 

Hope you all had a great holiday, too! 

Sunday, December 29, 2013

I RAN!!!! :)

Friday morning, I put Bailey in the Hubs' very capable hands and put on my favorite pair of (neglected) Brooks and set out for my first run in over 2 months. 

I'd LOVE to say "OMG! THIS RUN WAS AMAZING AND WONDERFUL AND SUNSHINE AND UNICORNS!!"... but, it wasn't. It was HARD and EXHAUSTING and SLOW. I had to keep telling myself "It doesn't matter how slow you go, just don't stop running. You can do this!". It was ROUGH. But, I did it.

I slowed down, concentrated on not quitting and just did it. (Note: I only wore the Garmin to track time and out of curiosity... not because I particularly cared about pace.) And, it was pretty amazing. I didn't love every second and I definitely wasn't smiling while I was actually running, but at the end- you couldn't wipe the grin off my face. I felt proud. A few years ago, I couldn't run a mile straight if you paid me. Now, even after taking over 2 months totally off and after spending the last SIX WEEKS basically completely workout free (minus the one strength workout I did last week and 2-3 1-mile walks when the weather wasn't totally frigid), I could bust out THREE MILES in the snow, at a 10:22 pace. I'm pretty damn proud of that. 

I have a looooong way to go before I'm busting out double digits or clocking any sub 9:00-miles. And, that's OK. I'm kinda looking forward to the ride.

While I was running, all I could think about was getting back to this face for lots of snuggles.

Oh, and having this waiting for me sure helped too.

Hey... I had to make up the calories somehow... gotta keep that breastmilk supply up! :)

Saturday, December 28, 2013

My Pregnancy

Way back when I actually routinely blogged (remember those days?!?), I gave weekly updates on my pregnancy. But, as we all know, I fell off the face of the planet and stopped blogging, making my last pregnancy update Week 20 & 21. So, while I won't even remotely try to recap the following 14 weeks week by week, I will try to kinda recap the pregnancy as a whole...

Last preggo pics... taken at 34 weeks, the week before Bailey was born.

Size of Baby: It's just mind boggling to know that the baby grew from the size of a pen drop to over 5 pounds in just 35 weeks. Absolutely crazy. Bailey was measuring right on time throughout the entire pregnancy.

Total Weight Gain: The last time I weighed myself, which was at the doctor just a few days before Bailey made her surprise entrance, I was up about 20 pounds. Seeing as how Bailey came just a few days later, I imagine this was my total gain. Now, I had gone full-term, I'm SURE I would have gained a solid 10ish more pounds, but I suppose I'll never know for sure. 

Working Out: I think overall, I got really lucky with working out, especially on the mental front. Maybe that sounds crazy... so, let me explain.

I think when I first got pregnant I put a lot of pressure on myself and told myself I'd keep running ALL the way through the pregnancy and be super fit and active. I put a TON of pressure on myself and normal Meagan would have caved to that pressure and possibly been unhealthy to ensure I met those ridiculous expectations. Some how, a new Meagan emerged early pregnancy and I quickly became OK with just doing whatever I could, whenever I could and enjoying the ride. I know... I don't know who that person is either, but thank goodness for the transformation! 

I would have LOVED to run through the entire pregnancy. But, it didn't happen. My last pregnant run was on October 11. 
Yes, I did take a bathroom selfie of myself on my last preggo run. 

Could I have run the next week or the week after? Probably. But, it didn't FEEL good anymore. I ached and DREDED the idea of running. What's the point of that? I LOVE to run. If I don't want to do it, why would I? Silly. There were PLENTY of other things I could do to still be active and healthy. 

So, I did. The Hubs and I went on 3-mile walks with Sadie almost every day, including the day before I gave birth (and, NO! That is NOT the reason Bailey came early!!!). I ellipticalled during my lunch hour, keeping the pace slow and the resistance crazy easy, including a few sessions the week before I gave birth (again- NOT the reason Bailey came early!!). I did some light strength training til a little over half way through my pregnancy, then just got too busy and tired. 

In the early days of pregnancy, I did manage to run 2 official half-marathons and a handful of other races. I think that's pretty cool. When I ran, I felt incredibly connected to Bailey. It was such a quiet time where I could really talk to her (in my head) and think about who she would become and just really focus on thinking about her and nothing else. It may sound crazy, but I think we became even more bonded during my runs. 

Overall, I'm incredibly proud of both my ability to shut the f up and not drive myself crazy trying to workout just as much as I did pre-pregnancy AND of my ability to stay active and healthy throughout my entire pregnancy. I put a LOT of the credit of the ease of my labor and the ease and quickness of my recovery into staying active throughout the pregnancy and if/when I ever get pregnant again (in the DISTANT future!), I plan to try to do the same again... though I'm sure it'll be MUCH more difficult with already having a child, too. :)

Food Aversions: During my first trimester even the idea or smell of bacon made me want to gag, but that quickly went away (though bacon still didn't sound GOOD til after I had Bailey... now, yuuuuum!!!). Oh! And, salad. The idea of a salad sounded SO good, but the few times I actually tried to have one-- barf central. Salad is the only food that actually made me sick during pregnancy. 
Old pic of a salad from the early days of pregnancy... yeaaah, that got thrown back up about 5 minutes after this 
pic was taken. YUM.

Other than that, I didn't really wanna barf over anything in specific. I didn't crave a few foods I loved pre-pregnant, like grilled peppers and onions over rice which I ate like 2 times a week pre-pregnant, but nothing really made my skin crawl, either.  

Food Cravings: This is a tough one... I mean, I craved pretty much everything! I always do, so I don't really think it's fair to blame pregnancy on that one. Nothing really crazy different came up... just the usual ice cream, peanut butter, candy, chips... ya know, the normal bad foods one would crave. 

Greatest Moments: Feeling her squirm around inside me was definitely the coolest, greatest feeling. I wish I had realized I was in labor earlier so I could have realized and enjoyed the last few kicks. It feels like nothing I can explain and is pretty darn cool to know that Bailey kicking is a feeling only I will ever know. She was a BIG mover and kicker, too. Girl was ALWAYS on the go... and still is. The doctor comments on it all the time... she's just a squirmy lil' nugget. 

Seeing her on the ultra sound and hearing her heartbeat were also pretty amazing moments, especially when the Hubs and I first got to see her and it looked like nothing more than a little peanut and then a few short weeks later when we got to find out she was a girl and she looked like a real baby in the ultrasound. Crazy just how fast they grow in there!

My baby shower hosted by my sisters and MIL (THANK YOU!!!) was also a great moment. I got to see friends and family I hadn't seen since the wedding and it was just so nice to all get together and celebrate this new life that was on it's way to the world. Plus, the Hubs and I got a TON of stuff we needed thanks to everyone's generosity. I pretty much have the world's greatest family and friends. 

Biggest Symptoms/Complaints: I'd say overall I had an extremely good and easy pregnancy. I didn't have really any morning sickness and felt pretty good the entire 35 weeks. Now, I didn't experience the last 5 weeks where a lot of women get the most uncomfortable, so I can't really know how I would have felt at the end (though trust me-- I would have LOVED to experience all 40 weeks and had Bailey NOT need any time in the NICU. TRUST ME.). I'd say my #1 complaint was insomnia. I slept like complete crap for the last 20ish weeks. That's a long time to sleep like shit, especially when then you have a newborn and you REALLY sleep like shit (getting up every 2 hours to pump and/or feed is NOT an easy thing!). I was exhausted all the time and had little energy. I'm a VERY go-go-gooooo person, so not being able to be so go-go-go was tough on me. I also broke out like crazy during the pregnancy. I looked like a 14 year old boy! And, I got extremely chapped lips. Like, cracked and peeling and bleeding. Constantly. No matter how much lip balm I used. It was crazy! 

Final Thoughts: I know some women love being pregnant and some women hate it... I'd say I fell somewhere in the middle. I certainly didn't love getting huge and being uncomfortable. I also didn't love the crappy sleep and pepperoni face. But, I did love feeling so connected to another person. I loved feeling so bonded and in-tune with this little growing being in my belly. I loved knowing I was 100% responsible for my child's safety and well being. I loved knowing I was experiencing something no one else ever would (sure, tons of women get pregnant... but, none of them with my little girl!) and getting to bond with her in a way no one else ever could. It's unexplainable... but, it's definitely a feeling and time I'd never trade for anything in the world. 

35 weeks FLEW by. I honestly can't even believe just how fast it went. I'm glad I took moments (usually when running) to really think about and reflect on what I was feeling and really cherish those moments. They were gone WAY sooner than I expected and it's a feeling and they are moments I can never duplicate or get back. 

Friday, December 27, 2013

Merry (Belated) Christmas!

Merry (belated) Christmas from Bailey, the Hubs, Sadie, and I!

We had a great baby's first Christmas, filled with family, friends, and fun. Bailey got lots of gifts and, even better, lots of snuggles with family. And, the fun's just getting started! My sisters are coming into town for a NYE-ish visit! Can't wait!!! 

So, from my family to yours-- happy holidays! 

Meagan, The Hubs, Bailey and Sadie

Friday, December 20, 2013

First Workout!!!

Yesterday I had my 6-week postpartum check-up appointment. You can imagine how happy I was when the doctor gave me the all clear to workout again! WAHOO!!!

I immediately had thoughts of running race through my head. I could just picture myself lace up my Brooks and hit the streets with my iPod and not a care in the world, knocking out an easy double digit run. 

Yeaaaaaaaah. Then I snapped back to reality. 

Problem #1 with my little daydream: I DO have a care in the world. Lots of cares, actually. My #1 care right now has NOTHING to do with working out or getting back in shape. As a matter of fact, I'm actively trying NOT to lose any more weight to help keep my breastmilk supply good n' plentiful. My #1 care right now is BAILEY. Simple as that. 

Problem #2: I haven't run in a WHILE. Since October 11, 2013 to be exact, and even then it was a SLOOOOW 2 mile run. That's OVER 2 months of not a single step resembling a run. To think I'm going to churn out double digits is just plan stupid. 

Problem #3: How the heck would I possibly have time to get out and run right now? I have a NEWBORN! I'm alone with Bailey-bug all day and when the Hubs gets home at 5:30ish, I'd MUCH rather spend time with him and Bailey and Sadie (yes, the dog counts!!) as a family than alone... even if it means not running right now. 

So, my daydream quickly died. And, you know what... I was totally OK with that. I'd LOVE to go for a run right now. I can't lie about that. But, I'd much rather be doing what I'm doing. Will I eventually get our for a run, yes. Of course. Maybe even this weekend. We'll see. But, am I chomping at the bit? Nope. Not really. When it happens, it happens. 

But, that doesn't mean I can't do ANY workout. While I don't want to give up any Bailey time to workout, girl does nap. Now, in the past I might nap with her, but lately I've actually been getting relatively decent sleep (spoiler for her 6-week update!), so I don't need quite as many naps. And, while her naps may not be the longest and who knows if she'll start crying mid-way through, I figured it was worth a shot. Worst that could happen would be I'd stop. Simple. So, while I can't get outside (and I don't own a treadmill... drat!) for a run during her naps, I can do SOMETHING.

So, I did. Today I had my first workout in 6 weeks. I'd love to say I was smiling the whole time and that it was easy peasy and I jumped right back to the fitness level I was at pre-pregnancy-- that would be a BIG, FAT LIE. I'm WAY outta shape. Like, WAAAAAY outta shape. And, that's OK. Of course I am! Hello. I just HAD A BABY. I'm SUPPOSED to be outta shape. Even though I stayed active and worked out through my pregnancy (which, for the record, I DO think helped me stay in decent shape... or at least better than had I not done that), I still haven't done ANYTHING resembling a workout in 6 weeks (unless you could carrying her in the car seat, which is freaking heavy!). So, NO! I did not jump back in where I left off. DUH! I KNEW I wouldn't, which I think really helped me not be crushed at just how tough the workout was. Who knew having realistic expectations would pay off? Learn something new everyday.

So, what did I do? Not a lot, to be honest. But, I think it was a great start and way to ease me SLOWLY back into things....

20 minutes of a sorta total-body toning workout.

Lots of lunges, squats, arm work (bi's, tri's, etc.), leg lifts, crunches, etc. I focused on doing more than one move at once, to make the most of my limited time. For example, instead of doing just squats, I did squats and bicep curls at the same time. 

I even did some planks. I could BARELY hold a plank for one minute before my arms were shaking so bad I thought they'd fall off. 

I finished the workout off with 3 minutes of running (ok... more like fast walking) up and down the stairs. 
Don't worry, Hubs-- I was careful and used the handrail. I didn't slip or fall once! 

This little, 20-minute workout had be sweating like crazy... which actually kinda felt great... it's been WEEKS since I sweated from a workout and not just from hot flashes at night (speaking of-- WHY DID NO ONE WARN ME ABOUT CRAZY NIGHT SWEATS POST-BABY?!?!). To say this workout kicked my ass would be an understatement. I will most definitely be crazy sore tomorrow. Confession? I'm kinda looking forward to it! Again, it's been WEEKS since I felt that great-workout soreness. 

So, I'll say workout #1 was a success! Will I get a workout in everyday? Nope. Not even close. Is that my goal? NOPE. Not even a little. I'm hoping for a few times a week at first. But, really I have very little expectations. My only GOAL right now is to stay healthy and enjoy every, single moment I have while I'm home on leave with Bailey. I can't believe 6 weeks have already flown by. Working out is pretty far down on the priority list... and, that's OK. 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Bailey: One Month

Bailey is well beyond one month at this point... a whopping 5 weeks, 4 days! But, we'll rewind and pretend she just turned one month! 

Age: One Month
It's BEYOND crazy that at 4 weeks, she technically wasn't even supposed to be here yet. Like, my brain cannot wrap itself around that fact. I can't believe she's already a month old, too! Time is FLYING by!!!

Weight: 6 pounds, 4 ounces
Height: 20 inches

Girl is growing everyday! Doctor would like a bit more weight gain, so we have another appointment before our usual 2-month check up to check her weight. To be honest, I'm 100% ok with her weight gain thus far. She's gained every week consistently, so I'm happy. I think she just might be a slow gainer which is not all that abnormal for both preemies and breast fed babies. We'll see what the doc says next week.

Sleep: About 2-3 hour stretches

The doctor has us on a strict no-more-than-3-hour schedule for feedings, as she needs to pack on the pounds. So, we've never really given her the opportunity to "sleep through the night." I have to wake her up pretty frequently to eat, so I think she'd at least go a bit longer than 3 hours at a time. Who knows though. She loves to sleep, when she wants to. If she doesn't want to sleep, girl will have nothing to do with it. To sleep-sleep (at night), she must be swaddled, even though she fights it. 

Generally at night I've been nursing her to sleep (I know some people say not to do that... whatever. It works right now!), but for her naps during the day, she puts herself to sleep in either the vibrating seat (usually w/o the vibration turned on) or the swing (again, usually w/o the swing turned on) or in my arms when we're snuggling. She doesn't need total quiet or lights off. Overall, I'd say she's a pretty good sleeper. 

Awake Time:
Bailey can stay awake for LONG stretches, if she wants. She hasn't really fallen into a "routine" at this point... but, sometimes she'll sleep between feedings, while sometimes she'll stay awake the ENTIRE stretch between feedings. Crazy, girl! While some people may say if she's awake that much it'll effect her night time sleep, I haven't found this to be true... yet. But, again- we're waking every 2-3 hours all. the. time. so I might just haven't had the chance to see it effect it yet. We'll see. 

It's going really well! Like I said, she's gained weight each week (even if the silly doctor doesn't think it's ENOUGH of a gain). She feeds every 2-3 hours for about 10-18 minutes per side, each side each feeding. So, we nurse 1 side for about 10-18 minutes, change her diaper, then do the other side which in total takes about 40 minutes. Then, 2-3 hours later (counting from when we START each feeding... so, really it's more like 80-100 minutes later, max) we do it all again. 
Clearly this pic has nothing to do with nursing... but, HOW CUTE ARE BABY SANTA FEET?!?!? I die.

I've gone to a free breast feeding support group 1-2 times a week each week since we've been released. I would HIGHLY suggest doing this if you have the opportunity. Though nursing has been going well, it's SO helpful to talk to other b-feeding moms, the lactation consultants, and to get her weighed so often. Seriously. Love these meetings. The lactation consultants all comment on how well Bailey's doing, especially for being a preemie. She's got a great latch and goes to town like a champ. Sometimes I have to wake her up to make sure she's getting a full feeding, but generally she does pretty good with this too. Overall, I am THRILLED with how b-feeding is going. 

I should note we are using a nipple shield. TMI? Oh well. Anyway-- I credit a LOT of our b-feeding success to using this. It protects my nipples so they aren't crazy sore (which I know is a big complaint of a lot of women) and helps her latch easier. The lactation consultants suggested it when we first tried b-feeding in the NICU and it's worked like a charm. Is it a pain in the ass because I lose the stupid things (seriously-- can't they make those neon pink and glow in the dark?!?!) and because I have to clean them all the time, but whatever. They work. I'm totally OK with them. 

I'm also still pumping 3-4 times a day. So, there hasn't been ONE DAY since she was born when I haven't pumped. For the record, I HATE THE PUMP!!! But, it helps keep my supply up and I've stock piled a pretty decent frozen milk supply for when I go back to work.

She is getting 1 small bottle a day with an iron and vitamin D supplement. She was introduced to a pacifier in the NICU, so she's never had any issues with nipple confusion or taking a bottle and then going right to the breast. Again, I think the nipple shield also helps with this, as it's much more similar to a bottle nipple than a real nipple. Works for us!

Likes: Snuggling, naps, music, spending time with Daddy & Sadie
I have much "better" pics of them... but, this one CRACKS me up and I loooove it!!!

She also LOVES looking at lights. Christmas tree lights, a lamp, whatever. She just loves lights. She loves her swing, too. 

Dislikes: Baths (I think she gets cold), diaper changes (again with the cold), and being naked. Girl HATES all things involved with taking any clothes off. Oh, and she also HATES getting into her car seat, though she likes actually being in it after she gets all strapped in. Goof. 
(This is one of her professional newborn pics... LOVE them!!!)

Hit or Miss: Bailey is kinda indifferent on being warn. We borrowed a Moby wrap from a friend and some days Bailey loves it, some days she wants nothing to do with it. 

She's also pretty hit or miss about tummy time. Again, some days she seems to like it, some days she SCREAMS her head off. Girl just can't make up her mind. 
Sadie's not sure about this whole squirming, noisy baby-thing. For the record: Sadie has been GREAT with her. She sniffs her a lot and still isn't quite sure if Bailey's here to stay, but she's been great with her. They're already best friends. 

Special Moment(s): 
I mean, there were a gazillion! Accidental smiles, cute (they're cute when they're your childs, I promise!!) tooting noises, snuggles... so many!!!! Every moment, even the blood curdling screams (which happen... girl HATES getting that damn diaper changed!) are special moments that I know will be gone before I know it. This time is SO special!

We did get to experience her first Thanksgiving when she was 17 days old. 
Photo-bombed by my nephew! 

She also got to meet all her Aunts and Uncles and cousins!!! She loves being held by her Aunts and her grandparents!!

I just cannot believe she's already a month old!! Seriously. I know everyone says it, but turns out they're all right: TIME FLIES BY!!! I can't believe how fast it's gone. It makes me SO SAD to think my leave is already a third over and this special time is getting closer to being over. I can't even think about that or I tear up. Ok, stop thinking about it, Meagan.

So, that's our little Bailey-bug at one month. Love this little girl more than I will ever be able to explain.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Our Experience in the NICU

(Warning: This post might be a little scattered brained... not only am I on like 5 hours of broken up sleep, but I also just have so much to say, but am not really sure how to organize all my thoughts... so, bare with me. Also, this post is hella long. Again.)

As I said in our birth story, about 45 minutes after she was born, Bailey was taken to the NICU. Hardest moment of my life thus far. To see your perfect little baby who just came out of your belly be carted away and have there be NOTHING you can do is absolutely terrifying, even in the best of circumstances-- which we had. I KNEW, in my head, nothing was seriously "wrong" with Bailey, as they let her stay with us for so long. I knew she wasn't "sick"... but, in the heat of the moment, none of that mattered. All that mattered was she wasn't with me and that SOMETHING was wrong.

When they took her to the NICU, the Hubs went with her. That was something we talked about long before. I'm sorta a pessimist (me?!?! Never!) and so we talked about some of the worst-case scenario things and the Hubs and I both felt very strongly that Bailey not be left without someone who loved her, so he would go with her, no matter what. It helped a TON that the Hubs parents were there, so they stayed with me while the nurse finished cleaning me up and such. They were able to distract me so the full impact of Bailey leaving didn't hit as hard as I'm sure it would have had I been left alone. Huge, HUGE thank you to my inlaws for being SO amazing during this time.

After a few minutes of getting cleaned up, and the nurse wheeled me in a wheelchair (despite me asking if I could walk) to the NICU to see Bailey again with my in-laws following. We all went into the NICU and FINALLY (ok, it was like 15 minutes, but if felt like eternity!) I got to see my little girl again.

To see her again was amazing... but, I can't lie and say it didn't break my heart into a gazillion pieces to see her hooked up to so many tubes. The Hubs, who had been there the whole time, had to see her get poked and prodded and get an IV line put into her little teeny hand... I honestly can't imagine having to watch that.

<This seems like a good point to pause and mention just how AMAZING the Hubs was through all of this and still is!
I think sometimes we overlook how hard things can be on the man when delivering a baby... and he was AMAZING. Through labor and through everything in the NICU and since then... AMAZING. He never let Bailey out of his sight for HOURS, talking to her and touching her little hand to make sure she knew she was loved and safe. I honestly can't imagine going through it without him. Since having Bailey and going through 10 long days in the NICU, we're bonded in a new way I never knew possible. To say he's my rock (though so cliche) would be an understatement. Words will never be able to describe how wonder he was/is and how grateful I am to have him as my husband and as Bailey's father. Girl is the luckiest child in the world to have him as her Daddy. I can't stress enough how much harder everything would have been without him there, by my side. He was amazing. He is amazing.>

Ok, back to the story...

So, when I got to the NICU, the nurses and doctor explained that Bailey's lungs weren't quite fully developed yet, as they are the last thing to develop in womb. So, she needed some extra help breathing. There are a bazillion medical terms I could try to remember to throw out to better explain things, but that's really the jist of it. The doctor assured me Bailey wasn't SICK... she just needed a little extra help, as she wasn't quite done baking just yet. Again, I'm minimizing all the details, but really-- that's the really the main idea.

I tried to breastfeed while we were still in the labor and delivery room before they took Bailey to the NICU, but she didn't take to it. Because she was had a ginormous breathing tube thing in she couldn't try again until she would be taken off that (called a CPAP), so they also had to put a feeding tube in. I was really upset at this, as I really, REALLY wanted to breast feed. Luckily, the hospital staff was AMAZING and encouraged me to start pumping from day 1, and had lactation consultants there to cheer me on and encourage me, especially as the first time I pumped I literally only had ONE DROP come out... I'm sure had they not been there to tell me that was all I was supposed to be producing that early and to keep at it I would have gotten discouraged and stopped. I can't thank the lactation consultants enough. I kept at it and Bailey was given only breast milk through the tube (in addition to some other nutrients and proteins, but never formula).

The first 2 days, while I was still in the hospital as a patient myself, were a blur of sitting by her side, pumping every 2 hours-- all day and night-- and holding her skin to skin (kangaroo-care is VERY important especially with preemies). Either the Hubs or I were with her almost every second for the first 48-hours. We were lucky in that we COULD hold her... a lot of the babies in the NICU were so sick, not even their parents could hold them. I would have lost my mind, so I am SO SO SOOO grateful we could hold Bailey all we wanted. Grandparents were allowed to hold her, as well. But, that was it. No other visitors (like my sister or the Hubs brother) were even allowed to touch her in hopes of keeping her as germ-free as possible.

Anyway, after 2 days, I was released. (Note: I'll talk more about my "recovery" in another post.) This was hands down the hardest day of my life thus far. When you're pregnant, you spend so much time thinking of the moment you leave the hospital with your little baby... and, I didn't get that. I was released and told I could go home, but that Bailey could not. It could not have been farther from what I imagined all those months I was pregnant. The Hubs and I left the hospital that evening, drove the 5-minutes it took us to get home (while I cried the whole drive), took Sadie for a 10-minute walk, and turned right back around and went back to the hospital. Those were the 20ish hardest minutes. Words can't describe how hard it was to leave without her. When I was pregnant I imagined what it would be like to walk into my house for the first time after labor, with this little, perfect baby in my arms... and, I didn't have that. There was no baby in my arms. Even though I KNEW she wouldn't be in the NICU that long and I KNEW I'd get to take her home soon... still. My heart didn't know. Or couldn't remember it in those minutes. Just thinking about it makes me cry right now.

I spent that first night I was released at home with the Hubs. I can't lie-- It was nice to sleep in my own bed and shower in my own shower. It was also so hard. I was still up every 2 hours to pump (so, to all you people who say "At least you got some extra sleep!"-- bullcrap!) and just missing her so much. At 5am the next morning, I was back at the hospital, by Bailey's side.

The NICU at the hospital we delivered at was AMAZING. I cannot say enough good things about the staff and facility. After sleeping at home the first night I was released, I decided I wanted to stay at the NICU, as it was just too hard not being with her and knowing I was right there if she needed me. Not to mention, I was still up pumping every 2 hours and I was exhausted. The Hubs didn't think me driving back and forth from the hospital at all hours wasn't safe, as I was just so tired. Luckily, the NICU had several "parent rooms" that parents with children in the NICU could stay in for free. Basically, they were hospital rooms... well, sort of. The room I stayed in had a pull out couch, TV, and bathroom with no tub or shower (there were communal showers available, but I never used them). Basically, all I needed, especially since I was really only ever in the room to sleep for the next several days. I was SO grateful to have this available to me.

In addition to the room, I was able to get a free lunch from the hospital cafeteria delivered to me in the NICU everyday I was there, since I was pumping/breastfeeding. Again, BEST HOSPITAL EVER. Not only could get a free lunch, the Hubs and I could also both utilize the Ronald McDonald Room located down the hall from the NICU for free snacks, breakfast, and a home cooked nightly dinner.

I took advantage of the parent room and meals for every day and for every meal during the entire time Bailey was in the NICU. I stayed with Bailey almost all day, every day for the remainder of her stay. I left each day 1-2 times... one to shower and see Sadie at home (poor dog was so confused!!) and one sometimes to run an errand to Target or somewhere. Turns out, when  you have a baby so early you don't have a bunch of the stuff you'll need when she gets home... for example, we had ZERO newborn size diapers and TWO newborn size outfits. Lots of Target and Babies R Us trips happened. I was never gone for more than an hour and a half, as she had her "checks" (diaper change, temperature, and feeding) every 2 hours and if I was there, I could help with most of it and I always wanted to do that.

After she was in the NICU for a few days (the exact timeline kinda eludes me... it's all a bit of a jumble), she was able to come off the oxygen, which was great. One less tube! It made it SO MUCH easier to hold her. Sadly, she had to go back on the oxygen the next day as her numbers went back down. But, they came back up the day after and she was off it for good from then on. But, as any parent with a child in the NICU learns quickly, things are often one step forward, two steps backward. Right when the oxygen stuff sorted itself out, she developed jaundice, which is very common in newborns. She had to then go under a bili light to treat it.
(Bad pic, sorry... I didn't take any pics of her under the lights, so this came from a video I took)

Sadly, during this time she needed to be under the light as much as possible to get rid of the jaundice, so we weren't able to hold her as much. That was tough, but we knew it was what was best for her.

During this time, they also had to keep pricking her foot a few times a day to test her blood sugar. I hated those times! So hard to see your child get poked so much. Even worse, she pulled her IV out and had to get a new one... they had to try 12 different places (including two ON HER HEAD!!) before they found a good vein. Now, if you've ever had blood drawn and had a nurse miss your vein you KNOW how much that hurts and sucks. Poor girl had it happen 12 times IN A ROW. Makes me cringe even now. She was such a trooper, though. Girl has some serious fight in her!

Anyway- her jaundice cleared up in a few days later. So, she was off CPAP (the breathing treatment) and off the bili light! The next hurdle to tackle was getting her to eat. As I mentioned, she was exclusively getting my breast milk through a feeding tube up to this point. Now that she didn't have as many big tubes and didn't have to be under the light, the doctor gave us the green light to try breastfeeding. I was extremely nervous, as most preemies don't take to breastfeeding well, since they didn't develop the skill right away after birth. By this point, Bailey was almost a week old and we were JUST going to try. I was preparing myself for it to not work and to have to continue to pump (which SUUUUCKS, btw. I HATE the pump!!). I was SHOCKED when Bailey immediately took to the breast. Ok, maybe not IMMEDIATELY... her first few times she only got a couple sucks in, but, again, the staff was SO encouraging and we kept at it and she had it down by a few days. I was (and still am! Spoiler alert: breastfeeding is still happening and going well!) SO happy she took to it so well.

After a day or two of b-feeding going well, Bailey started rapidly improving. The jaundice was pretty much gone, her breathing tubes out, and now the feeding tube was out and we were exclusively nursing. NO MORE CORDS!! Ok, she still had a few-- just to monitor her heart rate, but it was small and easily manageable.

Then, the hospital let the Hubs and I take Bailey "home"... well, to our temporary home of our parent room. Again-- BEST NICU EVER. We were able to take Bailey in a portable crib to our room and have her with us 24/7 for the last 3-4 days she was in the NICU, bringing her out only to be checked every few hours and if we needed to leave. It was AMAZING to have her with us as a FAMILY with no nurses around. It felt, FINALLY, like we were getting close to going HOME and really being a family.
Our parent room... look! It even had ART on the walls! Fancy!!

Having the opportunity to care for her in our room, while knowing there was a team of nurses 10 steps away was AMAZING. It felt SO GOOD to finally have her tube/cord free and to be really CARING for her on our "own", but at the same time having a security blanket right down the hall. I would NEVER wish having a baby in the NICU on anyone, but this was really nice!

Now, it wasn't 100% smooth sailing from here on... she was still dropping weight and got as low as 5 pounds, 1 ounce (down from her birth weight of 5 pounds, 10 ounces). The doctor was nervous that she wasn't getting enough milk from nursing and was close to suggesting we supplement with formula. Plus, her jaundice came back. Of course. Again, 1 step forward, 2 back. The doc wouldn't release Bailey til she started gaining and wanted to see her jaundice numbers go down too. Luckily, the day before we were going to start supplementing with formula, she start gained a smidge. Gaining weight helps the jaundice go away too, so that number went down a smidge. And, a smidge was enough! We could TAKE HER HOME!!!

After 10 days in the NICU, we took her home, after the NICU requiring us to take an infant CPR class, watch a safe-sleep and car-safety DVD, and have our car seat inspected, on November 20 at 6pm!

And, then we were HOME. Finally. Safely. And healthy. And, just like that, our journey with the NICU was over.

I've already said it a gazillion times, but let me stress one more time how AMAZING the NICU was to us. Again, I'd never wish on ANYONE to have a child in the NICU. Ever. But, OMG. The staff and facility were amazing. I couldn't have asked for any better. I never even encountered one rude person. Ever. The nurses, lactation consultants, and doctor were BEYOND helpful and amazing. I can't sing their praises enough. I would not have gotten through it without their amazing support. Seriously. Again, just thinking about how AMAZING they all were makes me tear up. I owe them each more than I'll ever be able to repay or explain. Worth every cent (and, trust me-- it was a WHOLE LOTTA cents!).

There are a million other things I could say about our experience with the NICU, but I think I've talked enough. So, I'll just leave it with this... having a child in the NICU is ridiculous and beyond words stressful, even in our situation which I think was a sorta best-NICU-case-scenario. Even KNOWING Bailey wasn't really SICK-sick and knowing that she'd come home in the not-too-distant future. However, if she had to be in the NICU, I couldn't have asked for a better experience. I thank God for the Hubs during this time, as I can't imagine being a single parent trying to go through that. I'm also grateful to have had the extra help and education (I think they should require every new parent to do the same stuff we did! I'm so glad we had to watch those videos and take the classes!!) from the staff and to have gotten the extra hands on learning experiences we did. Lastly, I'm grateful to have been able to KNOW when we did get to take her home that she was healthy.

I cannot sing the praises of this hospital and this NICU enough.

{**Note: The Hubs did go back to work the day after her birth, in hopes of saving every second of his limited PTO for when she actually was home. He changed his hours and went to work 5am-1pm from the day after we had her to the day we got to take her home. So, he worked 5am-1pm, then was back at the hospital everyday. Such a trooper and hard worker! I was (and still am!) so proud of him. He worked so hard to be in a gazillion different places all at once. Since he was working still and we had Sadie at home, we decided it'd be best for me to sleep at the hospital in the parent room and for the Hubs to go home each night to sleep there so he'd be semi-functional the next day at work and to take care of Sadie. So, he was basically working from 5am-1pm, stopped at home to let Sadie out, then at the hospital from like 2-9pm-ish everyday. Over the weekend, he stayed at the hospital (and got up every time in the middle of the night I had to get up... even if just to pump!) with me, as well. It worked really well for us. Again, thank God for the Hubs during this time. He 100% took care of Sadie and did a lot of things around the house (took the trash out, laundry, etc.). We really took the "divide and conquer" mindset and worked as a team. We also made sure we had dinner together each night, which was really important to my mental sanity and helped us stay positive and connected during this crazy, hectic, stressful time.
I also ended up "working from home" half time from a few days after delivery to when Bailey was released, again to save PTO for when she came home. It worked great... thank goodness for an iPad so I could work while holding her, pumping, sitting next to her, etc. I got to be with her and save PTO so I could still have a lot of time with her when she came home. I was also still technically teaching a college class that semester. Luckily, another instructor was able to physically lead my class and I was able to keep grading the papers, again something I could do from Bailey's bedside. I'm so grateful to my employer for letting me do that. Though, to be honest, retrospectfully, I wouldn't work, even part time and even "from home" again. It added a lot more stress to me when I was already stressed enough. **}

For the record, I delivered and Bailey stayed in the NICU at Memorial Hospital.