I realized the other day that we moved to the US about nine months ago. That seems crazy. It’s the length of a pregnancy or of a school year. It’s three seasons and several holidays. It’s a good chunk of time.
(Us at Legoland Windsor in June, 10 days before we moved to America)
One year ago we were hosting my family at our flat in London for Chelsea’s MAS graduation. I was not pregnant, we did not know that we would be moving to Louisville in a few months, that the kids wouldn’t finish the school year, that in six months we would move into a house that we built. A lot can happen in a year’s time.
When we first arrived in the US people frequently asked me how we were all doing, and now that we are 3/4 of the way through a year, I think it is time for a little update. We’ll do this board game style, from youngest to oldest.
First up, Michael.
Michael has only been in our family for just over three months, at least the “out of my belly” stage of our family. But it seems like he has been here longer and that he should be older than he is. I’m guessing that much of that is due to his failing health at the end of December and the trauma that we faced in light of that. I imagine it that the magnitude of nearly losing a brand new addition to our family clarified the depths of our love and ferocity of our dedication to him. It feels like he has been in a large portion of my life and not just a few months of it. It’s strange.
So, how is he doing?
Michael was born with a heart defect: a bicuspid aortic valve, and aortic stenosis. I keep trying to write about this but get immediately and completely exhausted. I will, but for now I can’t. You can google it if you are curious of the medical details.
The general gist at the moment is that he is doing great. His heart is working just as it should, and as good as we and the doctor could hope for. The procedure that they did in December was a (temporary) fix to get it back to working order. That said, we have to watch him because there is no permanent fix, and he will likely have to have more procedures at other points in his life. We don’t know if those times will come in a few weeks or in several years, and so he has regular checkups with his cardiologist.
We just saw his cardiologist last Friday, five weeks since our last checkup, and all is well. Everything is as good as it could be, there has been no regression, the doctor has no concerns. Our next follow up appointment is three months from now, so that gives some indication of the doctor’s confidence in Michael’s heart and overall health.
That said, Michael and I spent last Sunday evening at the ER because he had a few symptoms that we were concerned about (all turned out to be fine).
The doctor had told us just after Michael was born that we would learn the difference between the concerns that we would have for any baby and the concerns that we would have for Michael as a “heart baby.” For example, if he is chewing on his hands, not nursing well, not napping well, and seems a bit agitated, then these are all symptoms that could mean that he is teething. But if he is doing all of those things in addition to labored breathing, then this could be an indication of a heart issue.
This is why we ended up in the ER on Sunday.
As it turns out all was fine. The labored breathing was because he was congested, which obviously makes it harder to breathe. The other symptoms were probably teething. Honestly that is what we thought was the case, but because it also could have been something wrong with his heart everyone took the “better safe than sorry” route.
We try not to be on edge about him and his health but it’s hard not to be. But every good appointment, every day of normalcy, every day of good eating and sleeping and smiling and no emergencies help. They help us to have some confidence, to calm down, to heal.
If you saw him you would never know that anything had ever been wrong.
As for regular old baby stuff Michael is not only doing fine he is doing great! He is such a good baby. He is a smiley little sweetheart, particularly when someone is talking to him. He is very responsive to attention and has begun to laugh for us! I forgot how you feel like you are going to explode from happiness the first time that your baby laughs! I was smiling all day after that. 🙂
He is fourteen weeks old now, wakes once at night around 2:30 to eat and then goes right back to sleep, and has three or four naps throughout the day. He has reached that stage where he is more easily disturbed by noisy siblings, so when it warms up a little more I will start putting him down for naps in his bedroom instead of our room or the baby swing in the living room.
He is in the 20-50% range for his weight and the 75% for his height, wearing 3-6 month sized clothing but he is about to size out of it because he is so long. He is still nursing and then topped off with formula for every feeding.
He has a good little tuft of hair on his head, chunky little arms and wrists that I cannot resist kissing, and the happiest smile-often with a little tongue poking out between his lips.
He is doing well with tummy time although he still prefers it with a nursing pillow than flat on the floor.
We have had him in the Bumbo seat a few times a day for the last few weeks and he is getting better control of his trunk and neck. When we first put him in it he would let his head tilt back and then catch sight of the fan/beam in the living room and continue to stare at it with no motivation to sit up straighter. But he has moved on to the bobble head phase and is getting pretty sturdy. He still whacks me in the jaw quite a bit when I have him up on my shoulder to burp him, but otherwise he has really good control of his head and neck.
When he is flat on his back he has moved from the baby archer pose, through the marching phase, and is now doing what I call bike riding. Both arms straight out and forward and his legs moving up and down over and over.
That’s So Michael
He hates being in his carseat. Hates it! I usually try to time wherever we need to go around when he needs to sleep, but it obviously doesn’t always work that way.
When we were about to leave the hospital in January the doctors told us that there weren’t really any special instructions for how we needed to care for Michael, aside from being vigilant about hand washing for us and the kids. Since it was the start of flu/cold/RSV season, they suggested that we keep him out of public places for January and February, and don’t take him to the grocery store or to church. So that is what we have done.
I have wondered if the whole “hating the carseat” thing can be attributed to the fact that he doesn’t have to be in one very often. He rides with me every day for the preschool run, but aside from that he mostly is just in his carseat when he has a doctors appointment or the occasional run for pizza. It has only just gotten warm enough for walks outside so maybe that will help warm him up to it.
He is happiest stretched out on his back and kicking. He LOVES his mobile and being laid out on our bed or on the changing table. He also likes his play mat and will tolerate tummy time but preferably with a boppy pillow to support him. His bouncy seat will do and the Bumbo seat is okay. The swing is mostly for sleeping these days, although it’s mobile provides occasional entertainment as well. He will tolerate being “worn” in the baby wrap or carrier, but gets annoyed pretty quickly by being strapped to mom. He just wants to be stretched out.
He has been teething for the last two weeks, furiously chewing on his hands and trying to stuff both of them into his mouth. The doctors were skeptical when we mentioned that last week, saying that it is a little too early to be working on teeth. But last night when I was giving him a bath I noticed that one of his cheeks was red. I pulled his lips back from his gums for a closer look and saw a tiny incisor just under his gums on the same side as the red cheek. It is nice to occasionally be reminded that we are seasoned parents.
He has always hated the bath, and I don’t really blame him because it is cold in our bathroom. It’s a pretty big room and opens up into the closet, so it’s hard to keep the warm air in. I appeased him for a while (the first two months!) by giving him sponge baths so that he could stay mostly wrapped up throughout the process, but have recently switched to baths in the little tub. Actually when I first started the submerged baths again I was surprised to discover that he was already too big for the sling and needed to just use the infant portion instead. But luckily he shifted from bath time misery to bathtub marching, which is one of my favorites! 🙂
He often falls asleep in my arms, and to be honest, I care a lot less than I used to about whether or not that is ideal. I want this baby in my arms more than I want him on a perfect schedule, and truthfully he seems to have fallen into a schedule anyway. When he starts getting a little fussy or his eyes start to get really heavy I will put him up against my shoulder or chest, he flops his his forehead into my body, clings to my shirt, and starts taking the long deep breaths of sleep. Then I put him down in his pack n play, swing, or sometimes I just keep him. I know the days of doing this are limited and I’m not pushing him to grow out of it just yet.
Michael is the apple of everyone’s eye. Hannah ABSOLUTELY ADORES him. Adores him. She is constantly pushing the boundaries of what she is allowed to do in order to LOVE HIM AS MUCH AS SHE POSSIBLY CAN. If we say she can kiss him on the cheek then she will sneak in a quick kiss by/on his mouth. If I say she can give him a gentle kiss on the lips then she will sneak in three or four quick ones. She just has so much enthusiasm and has a hard time dialing it back. Luckily he is beginning to exit the “very delicate and fragile” state of babyhood.
Jayce has also taken to Michael easily and without any sort of annoyed or jealous behavior. He doesn’t feel the same urge to see Michael the minute that he wakes up in the morning, or to interact with the baby at least every five minutes in the way that Hannah does, but is always happy to see him and generally pleased with his presence. Actually I have been a little surprised by just how mature Jayce always is regarding Michael’s needs in light of his own. There have been many times where Jayce has to wait on me to finish tending to Michael in some way before I can help him with whatever he needs, and he has never thrown a fit about it or given me a “you care more about Micael than me” guilt trip. I have been braced for one of those but they have never happened, and I always try to give Jayce my attention as quickly as I can once I’ve finished with Michael.
As for Chris and I, we seem to have shifted relatively easily into the dynamic of a family of five, although it still surprises me a little bit when I glance into the backseat of the truck and each of the three seats is filled by one of our children.
We also know how lucky we are that our baby boy is doing so well, and he doesn’t require a lot of medical assistance to live his life in a normal way. He is not on any medication and there are no devices in our home to check or regulate his health. He does needs to be monitored regularly by his cardiologist, and carefully by us at home, and we are up to the task. We are grateful for him every day, and that makes the hassles of doctor’s appointments or dealing with our own anxieties seem like peanuts.
And that, my friends, is how Michael is doing.