Looking Forward, Looking Back

Welcome to the first edition of the Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival, hosted by Authentic Parenting and Mudpiemama!
In the month of January, we start afresh, a new year, new ideas. Hence, our participants have looked into the topic of “Birth and New Beginnings”. Take a look at the end of this post to find a list of links to the entries of the other participants.
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Looking back
How do you move forward after facing the loss of a child? This is a question I’ve wrestled with over the last few years. Whether it’s loss through a miscarriage or infant loss it can paralyze your life.  It’s an experience that makes you stronger than you ever thought you could be- or wanted to be.

January is a tough month for me. This month Bella would have turned 6.This is also the month my youngest turns 3. It’s a month filled with mixed feelings, emotional ups and downs.
Our family still experiences grief though she has been gone for over 4 years. We miss our Bella a great deal. We are able to talk about her with joy in our hearts. We talk about our memories of her and we can laugh as we remember. This is a welcome change.
Deciding to have another child after a loss can be very difficult. We had decided not to have any more children after Bella due to our chances of 1 in 4 of any of our future children having Walker-Warburg Syndrome. We strongly felt  we didn’t want to go through all of the pain again. Well, you know what they say about the best-laid plans…
Surprises happen. One year after Bella’s death (almost to the very day), we found out we were expecting another child, our hearts filled with joy, dread and lots of lots of questions. We had feelings of grief and hope all swirling around inside. Big Z was elated at the idea of being a big sister again.  We had a very anxious pregnancy until our 20-week ultrasound when we were given the wonderful news of our baby boy being healthy and strong. This pregnancy and birth was a time of reflection, hopefulness and healing.
People have made thoughtless comments in regards to a new baby taking away our grief. It doesn’t work that way, he doesn’t replace Bella. We still mourn our Bella and grieve for her, a part of my heart will remain empty and broken until I’m with her again. However, having another baby has been the most lovely distraction from my grief you can ever imagine.

Looking forward

We move forward with our new life as a family without Bella.  Having another child after our loss has given me a deeper appreciation of my children and our life together. We make room for sadness and for joy.

Visit Authentic Parenting and MudpieMama to find out how you can participate in the next Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

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Remembering Bella

Today is the fourth anniversary of losing our beautiful Bella to Walker-Warburg Syndrome. Here is a video that was featured in the 2011 Neuro Film Festival “Remembering Bella.”

Attachment Parenting in the NICU

Welcome to the March Carnival of Natural Parenting: Natural Parenting Top 10 Lists
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared Top 10 lists on a wide variety of aspects of attachment parenting and natural living. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
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There are many reasons that infants end up in the NICU. Some situations are preventable through proper nutrition and weight gain for the mother. Avoiding harmful practices such as drugs, drinking and smoking during pregnancy are key factors in avoiding complications for an infant at birth. Having a trustworthy birthing team that avoids unnecessary interventions is also important. Other situations are completely unavoidable. It is estimated that 10-15% of all newborns end up in the NICU. Caring for your infant in the NICU can be overwhelming. It is still possible to practice attachment parenting with your newborn in the NICU.
My sweet Bella spent the first two months of her life in the NICU. I thought I’d share with you some of the ways that we were still able to use some attachment parenting ideas and apply them to the NICU. Of course every situation is different. Some infants may only be in the NICU for a few hours, or a few days, others are in for a longer period of time. Here is some tested advice from our experiences in parenting in the NICU.

10: Be your child’s advocate. Clearly you won’t be able to be with your newborn at all times during their stay in the NICU. While this is heartbreaking you can still make the best of it and make your wishes known to the NICU staff. Immediately request that no artificial nipples be given to your baby and post signs stating that your baby is being breastfed and is to receive no supplemental feedings. Make the signs large, colorful and also have them put notes on all the nurses notes and folders. If you have a little boy you may also want to place signs saying he is to stay intact and not to be removed for circumcision.
9: Make use of the staff available. You should request a meeting with a lactation consultant as soon as possible.They can make your life a lot easier in the hospital as a nursing mother. Become familiar with the nursing rooms and supplies and ask for support. The lactation consultants in most hospitals can also give you free meal tickets for use in the cafeteria. This helps nursing mothers stay adequately nourished and hydrated during their long stays visiting their newborns. Do not hesitate to ask your nurses and doctors a lot of questions. I know during our stay there were certain doctors that intimidating, even to the other nurses. Don’t let this hold you back, it’s your child! Keep a notebook with you and write down your questions and concerns so when the doctors do their rounds you are prepared and get the correct answers.
8: Get to know the head nurse that makes the schedules. We had three nurses that cared so well for our sweet Bella, we are forever grateful to them. We felt more relaxed when we knew they were on duty. We quickly learned after meeting with the head nurse that made the schedules that we could request them on a daily basis. It was such a relief to us. Don’t be afraid to ask for certain nurses not be on rotation with your infant. Most of the NICU nurses were wonderful, three in particular were out of this world, and a small hand full of nurses were not welcome to take care of my sweet baby. There were a few instances that came up during our stay that made me feel uncomfortable and not happy about the care our daughter was receiving at the hands of a nurse or two. I don’t like being confrontational, but this was my daughter. Again I spoke with the head nurse and had these few nurses removed from her care. Your life is much easier when you are comfortable with those taking care of your baby when you aren’t there.
7: Practice Kangaroo care and baby wearing. Initially, we weren’t able to hold our baby. She had extreme hydrocephalus and was shunted the very next day. She had a long recovery. We held her tiny hand until the time we were able to actually hold her in our arms. We brought up kangaroo care, surprisingly this was something they were only slightly familiar with. This became evident when they dug out the dusty privacy screen from storage. It was clearly not used on a daily basis. I can’t explain how uplifting it was for me to hold my daughter for the first time skin to skin, let alone the benefits to her. Sometimes you can bring your sling or wrap in and cuddle up with your wee one even while they are attached to tubes and machines.

6: Pump, Pump, Pump. (and pump some more) within first 12 hours, then every 3-4 hours afterward. The breast pump was my very best friend because it allowed my sweet baby to receive the best nutrition possible. It was also my mortal enemy because pumping sucks. However, I stuck with it for the entire 16 months of her life. Using a hospital grade pump is essential to keep your milk supply up.
5: Use a pacifier. WHAT?! Yes, a pacifier does have a place. I am not normally an advocate for the use of a pacifier. However if you are separated from your baby they need an outlet for their sucking reflex. Ideally, you would meet all your infant’s sucking needs for comfort and soothing through breastfeeding. When this is not a possibility, a pacifier can help soothe and relax the newborn. Often premature babies can use a pacifier to stimulate their sucking reflex even while they are being tube fed. In our situation, the pacifier was a lifesaver for Bella. I didn’t use them with my other two children. Bella was tube fed during her whole life, so it met the need of her sucking reflex and soothed her.
4: Use wool filled doll to assist mother-baby bonding. Wool will naturally absorb mothers scent and when the doll is left with the infant it slowly releases the mothers’ scent to the comfort of the baby. The mom can tuck the wool doll, like Zmooz or Cozy, into her bra and sleep with it a few nights, then it’s ready to snuggle with the baby afterward.

3: Arrange schedules Naturally you’ll want to spend as much time as possible with your new arrival. Planning the most effective way to use your time is essential. No doubt you’ll have other responsibilities to deal with outside of the NICU, like your other children! This can make it very difficult to juggle your time effectively. I was able to be in the hospital for 3 days with my sweet girl, then I had to travel from home. At that point, I made arrangements for me to be at the hospital throughout the day while my oldest was with her Grandma. I came home in the evening and we enjoyed dinner together as a family. We spent a few hours in the evening as a family with big sister. After she was in bed my husband went to the NICU for the night shift, until early morning. This way we were able to spend some quality time as a family, and keeping some sense of routine for my Big Z. It also allowed each of us some time alone at the hospital with Bella and we were able to get some rest at home. It isn’t ideal, but it’s only a temporary circumstance.
2: Hold your infant as much as possible. This really relates to #7 with wearing your baby and kangaroo care. One lesson I learned from our stays in the hospital is that it never hurts to ask about holding your baby. They may be hooked to machines and in incubators, but if we keep asking eventually they’ll make arrangements for it to happen. Holding your newborn does wonders for you as a new mom, and for your bonding with your new infant. If one nurse says “no”, it’s not possible, ask the next nurse, and the next until you find the nurse that will work with you to find a safe way to hold your baby.
1: Love Yourself. You may not have been prepared for your baby to be in the NICU. Regardless of when you learned of your baby being in the NICU, it’s essential to take care of yourself during this time. Perhaps you are recovering from a Cesarean during this time. This is a major surgery with a painful recovery. You will need time to recuperate. You may feel guilt, shame, and major disappointment. You may also be overtaken by grief at the loss of your ideal birth. You may feel helpless for not “protecting” your new baby. All of these feelings are normal. You’ll be exhausted, hormonal and overwhelmed. It is essential to take care of yourself so you can take care of your baby. Get your rest, eat a diet full in fresh fruit and vegetables, drink a lot of water and find a support system. Let your family and friends help with siblings, meals, laundry, cleaning. You want your baby to be raised in an environment filled with love and respect, so start with yourself.

We have made a short video of our journey with our daughter Bella. It has recently been entered in the Neuro Film Festival sponsored by the American Academy of Neurology. We would appreciate you watching Bella’s journey and voting for her video. Please watch “Remembering Bella”. Voting ends March 8th at midnight.

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon March 8 with all the carnival links.)