Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Happy Birthday Soren!

Today is Soren's "real" birthday. By having his party last Friday seems like he's been living in perpetual birthdayness for the past five days, but today was the "real" birthday. And what a special day it was.

His school does a great job at celebrating kids' birthdays.

Here he is wearing his special birthday crown (at hand washing time which is the first thing they all do when they get to class.)

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Then, the birthday boy gets to go into the center of the room with the other kids sitting in a circle. The teacher talks about Soren being born as a little tiny baby. The kids all talk about what things Soren could or couldn't do when he was born (they came to the conclusion that babies aren't very interesting and can't do much.) Then Soren carried the globe in a circl as the kids sang the song "the earth goes around the sun" to show the passing of a year. Then they talk about Soren being one year old and what he could do at that age. And so on and so forth until the earth goes around the sun for four whole years. Great routine.

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Then Soren got to play a little wind up music box that played Happy Birthday. While he was playing it he was supposed to "think about being four years old."

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And then all the kids sing happy birthday and Soren blows out the birthday candle.

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We passed out the treats that Soren made for his class. Dirt and worms. Perfect for preschoolers (but embarrassingly messy. Sorry Miss Jemima!)

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And he had a great time chomping on gummy worms with his best buddy Owen.

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What a terrific birthday!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Guess What Came in *Our* Mailbox Yesterday?

Well, isn't this about the most exciting label you've ever seen in a mailbox?

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Yet another excuse to haul out those child-size scissors.

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Checking out the teeny, tiny little caterpillers that are in the package.

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Look for an update in 7-10 days on the next stage in the process!

Thanks, Grandpa and Grandma!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Soren's Birthday Party

We had Soren's birthday party on Friday. It was so much fun.

Here he is unveiling his specially requested cake. Looks like he's pleased, eh?

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He specifically requested a cake with Kipper on it:

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Grandma Ruth and Auntie Christine got him a very special present...

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...that was too big to wrap, so he had to close his eyes and wait for them to bring it in...

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It was his very own wheelbarrow! (And why exactly didn't I get any photos of that? Oh well. I guarantee there will be plenty photos of him using it in the future!)

Blowing out the candles:

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Owen, Soren's best buddy from school, was able to come too.

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And gave Soren a really cool Mini Cooper (I'm kind of jealous.)

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And Maddy and Lynea (isn't she a doll?) his best bud neighbor friends came too!

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It was a great party! He wore his party hat most of the weekend (let me tell you, that certainly gets some attention in town!)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Can't Wait for his Birthday

Next week is Soren's birthday. Grandpa and Grandma P very generously sent him a special birthday package. I wasn't home when it arrived and apparently Peter wasn't feeling any need to keep birthday present opening limited only to Soren's actual birthday. Soren got the package, and then the present itself open all by himself.

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And while it may look as though a large dog came along and tore open the box, all the contents of the package were unharmed.

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Would you believe that he'll be raising his very own butterflies from caterpillars! How cool is that?! The present required that I send in the form to get the live caterpillars sent right over...we'll be sure to update the blog on the whole process.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Monday, April 20, 2009

It Was The Worst of Times, Part 4, Final Chapter

I'm surprised that I've had four whole installments worth of memories to write here.

The last week of the hospital stay was really about finishing his antibiotics and getting him off the drugs they had him on. Wow, morphine dependence is not a pretty sight. Poor kid was totally angry and fussy as they weaned him from that. Peter and I were pretty clear that when he is a teenager we're going to tell him the horrors of drug dependence and what a nightmare it is to get off. "Believe us, Soren, we saw you come off them once and don't ever want you to suffer like that again."

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As he improved it was mostly annoying to be in the hospital. There was always some test they needed to run on him, or some reason they needed to disturb his sleep. When he was critically ill, we were so grateful for the help. But once he was ok, we just wanted our lives back. I wonder if all hospital patients go through that. It seems likely. Your doctor knows it is time for you to go when you are in a pissy mood all the time.

As I mentioned earlier, I only went home once during the 16 days Soren was in the hospital. Stepping outside was absolutely staggering. It was such a surprise to find that there was a world happening outside our own personal saga. Rhodedenrons were in full bloom. Spring flowers were everywhere. The world was so alive! It was absolutely shocking.

We were released from the hospital on Mother's Day. The hospital had a little apartment off the NICU where families could do a practice of being home. We spent our last hospital night there. Soren slept hardly at all, he seemed annoyed at still being in the hospital too. We were tired from the long ordeal, but ready to go home and be tired like normal first time parents.

And that's all I have to say about that.

On to the best of times!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

It Was the Worst of Times, Part 3

Around day 4 the worst of the danger had passed. He was still pretty sick, but it wasn't nearly as touch and go. I got to hold him on day 4. It was an incredible production. I sat in a rocking chair and an entire team came to move Soren and all his accompanying equipment. Not quite the baby on your chest moment that people expect when they hold their baby for the first time, but it was magical nonetheless.

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After a few days of recovery from the surgery I was able to spend more time at Soren's bedside. Quite a relief for Peter, I'm sure. It felt so important to me to keep my hands on him and talk to him so that he would know it was me. I sang to him a lot. Songs that I loved, or songs that I made up. Somehow I even ended up rapping to him (and I hate rap!) Here's my song:

Little Bo Peep has a'lost her sheep
And she didn't know where to find them.
She looked all around
She looked up and a'down
And what she found was Soren
Soren, Soren, Mr. Soren Urban

Rap nursery rhymes. Me, the gangsta mom.

The Special Care nursery staff was incredible. They made little signs and decorations. Misty, the girl at the front desk made this wonderful sparkly sign that said "You are my sunshine." So of course, I sang that to him too.

You are my sunshine
My only sunshine
You make me happy when skies are grey
You'll never know, dear
How much I love you
Please don't take my sunshine away.

To this day I can't sing (or type) the last line of that song without weeping. Because, for me, there really was a chance that my sunshine might be taken away.

Sue, one of his main nurses, brought us a sparkly magic wand. It was such a kind gesture, her telling us how she wished she could just wave her magic wand to make everything all better.

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Soren's primary doctor in the NICU was Dr. Nicole Schmidt. I don't usually use people's first and last names on this blog, but if it somehow helps her name be found when another parent is searching for information on the doctor who is caring for their critically ill child, I'm happy to have used her name. After the experience, I have Googled her name, only to find sterile reports on her specialties or where she practices. But, to me, she was touched by the hand of God. I am sooooo grateful for everything she did. Peter summarized it well when he observed "good things just seem to happen when she is around."

When we were first in the NICU there were little temporary signs taped on curtains and on doors or windows. They said "We have some very sick babies right now. Please keep your voice low." I always felt so moved by those signs. Felt such compassion for the poor family who's child was so sick that they required special signs in the NICU. I knew our journey was rough, but I felt so sad for how hard their journey must be. And then as Soren started improving, I noticed that the nurses were talking a bit louder, that those signs were going away. Those signs had been there for Soren. And then I just felt gratitude, gratitude that I hadn't realized that my child was the most sick child in the NICU.

Still more to say? Wow. I guess there were a lot of memories of that dark time. Tomorrow will be the last installment though, I promise. Then it will be on to the best of times.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

It Was the Worst of Times, Part 2

I had such a great pregnancy. Completely healthy, no issues at all. I had no thought that the delivery and birth could be any different. I had read every pregnancy and childbirth ever written, I'd taken my classes, hired a doula, written a birth plan. I had told my doctor of my intentions for a natural drug-free delivery.

Pretty much none of that went according to plan, but really, that part doesn't matter to me. I wasn't there to have a particular experience myself. I was there to do whatever I could do to deliver a healthy baby and all the decisions we made throughout my labor were done with that in mind. So, when Soren came out there was a lot of rejoicing because we'd accomplished just that. We had our bouncing baby boy!

I'm not sure exactly when I was aware that something was wrong. His Apgar numbers were good. But then they noticed that he was not breathing very well and so they rushed him off to the NICU to see what they could do for him. I told Peter to go with him, to stay with him and to keep his hands on Soren so that he could feel Peter with him.

I was wheeled to the recovery room where I pretty much just spaced out, still pretty drugged up after the c-section. I wasn't really worried, I knew he was getting great care, and was still totally oblivious that anything could be seriously wrong. My mom came in and sat with me for awhile. And after I had recovered a bit they wheeled my bed down to the NICU so that I could see him. I remember reaching over and stroking him under the chin. My first words were "he's so soft." I'm not sure what kinds of tubes and hoses he had on at that point. I just saw my little boy.

After that they wheeled me to my room. I'm not sure what happened next, but it feels like I pretty much just layed there for a few hours. Still totally oblivious. Looking back, that is one of the harder things for me to understand. How is it that I took so long to comprehend what was happening? Even when Peter came back and told me about the worrisome reports from the doctors, I still didn't get it. I heard bad things but somehow they didn't really settle in my mind the way things normally settle in. I suppose it simply could be the drugs. But I'm actually tempted to just label it "grace" because it seems that I really was able to only take in as much as I could handle just then.

Peter was so incredible during the whole experience. So calm, logical, rational and loving. Truly perfect. He'd go in to the NICU and consult with the doctors and nurses about Soren's care, and then he'd come and report back to me, and our families who were anxious for news. I learned during this experience that I'd better be the one of us who dies first. I really want him there watching over me when it comes time to die. Me, I'm afraid I won't be nearly as much use to him as Peter is to others.

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Soren's life was in danger for the first three or four days. There was a significant chance that he might not survive. I can remember my first meeting with his intensive care doctor. She laid out all the details, the complete situation, what they were trying. And again, the message just didn't quite get through to me. I asked her "So, do babies sometimes die from this?" She looked me straight in the eye and answered "Yes."

Ah, I finally heard that.

Soren's Michigan grandparents were in town to welcome their new grandson into the world. They ran errands for us and stayed at our house while we were in the hospital. Every day they'd come in for the update and we'd rejoice that Soren had made it through another night. We weren't very good about visiting with them though, and so my dad went to our house just feeling the need to be useful and totally cleaned the garage and detailed both our cars. They haven't been that clean ever again. Jan did all our laundry, made sure our house was in order and that the food and things we'd abandoned didn't get old. They bought me a robe and slippers so that I could look cute in my long time at the hospital.

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My mom came every day too. I remember one time when I told her that I just couldn't talk to her. I didn't have the energy anymore, not for anyone. I couldn't even sit and talk with my own mother. I just needed to lay on my bed in a daze.

For the first several days Peter spent most of his time at Soren's bed. I was still recovering from the surgery. They told me that when people are experiencing an emotional trauma at the same time as recovering from a surgery, that the pain can sometimes be worse. Whatever the reason, I was in a lot of pain. Whenever I wanted to see Soren, a nurse would put me in a wheelchair and roll me down to see him. I'd sit there next to him and then call them to roll me back to my room. Then I'd lay in my bed and cry. From the disappointment and fear. That image of myself being wheeled into my critically ill son's room really epitomizes for me the starkness of that scary time.

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He had so many contraptions attached to him. He was on so many drugs. So much for my healthy-living pregnancy and drug-free plans for delivery. Now our son was being pumped full of the big gun drugs. Morphine. Doesn't just the name of that drug sound serious? Like an end-of-life paliative. He was even on a drug for awhile to paralyze him. They did a spinal tap to rule out meningitis. A spinal tap! He had a lot of chest xrays. One of his lungs had collapsed and they needed to monitor how it was progressing.

Wow, looks like I really do have a lot to say on this subject, eh? I guess I'll break it into another installment tomorrow.

Friday, April 17, 2009

It Was The Worst of Times, Part 1

Yes, I know that the quote is supposed to be "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..." But right now I'm just focusing on the worst of times. You see, Soren's fourth birthday is just around the corner. And like most moms, I can't help but reflect on that experience, that day, 4 years ago that brought our beloved little boy out into the world.

It was the worst of times.

Really.

The very worst.

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Peter and I have talked about that experience many times over the past four years. And in someways it felt almost like some sort of post-traumatic stress experience to work through the terror and uncertainty of those first few days of Soren's life. During the whole experience there wasn't any room to digest it all. We were hunkered down, in survival mode, just taking each hour as it came.

And so many of our friends never got the whole story of what happened then. During the experience we didn't really have the time or energy to talk about it. And once it was over it still all felt too raw to discuss. So, we really just didn't talk to other people about it.

But rather than forget all the details of that experience, I'm going to put them down here. So we can always know that this precious gift didn't arrive without a struggle. And now we can have the our own version of the Dickens line...it is the best of times, it was the worst of times...

The best way to summarize the overall experience is to use the email that I sent to our friends and family on the one day that I left the hospital in the two weeks that Soren was there.

***
Dear Friends –

Soren has arrived! There are so many of you whom I am sure are wondering if we’d just dropped off the face of the planet since we’ve been out of communications for awhile. We had such well laid out plans about all the phone calls we’d make announcing the arrival of our son, but those plans didn’t quite work out as expected.

Soren Gray Urban was born last Friday, April 29, at 5:52 am, 8 days after his due date. He was a whopping 8 lbs 14 ounces and was 21.5 inches long. I’m not kidding – the kid actually has biceps! He is gorgeous. He has a medium amount of longish blonde hair and bright blue eyes. I’m not yet sure if he looks like an Urban or a Plasman, so for the time being we’ll just say he looks like a Soren. He is precious.

But his arrival hasn’t been without challenges. When he was born he had some type of lung infection. The cause is entirely unknown. It made it difficult for him to get his first breaths. And when babies are born there is a transition that their little hearts have to make from the practice breathing they’ve been doing inside the womb, to the air breathing they need to make once they are out. The complications in his lungs made this transition difficult for his heart. So suddenly this new little baby was having both heart and lung challenges.

He was immediately rushed to the NICU (which kindly they call the Special Care Nursery at our hospital. It is strange how the semantics of gentler word choice actually make a big difference to me at a time like this). Peter was able to be with him the entire time. That made me able to relax knowing that his daddy was able to touch him and talk to him through this urgent experience.

Since then he has remained in the Special Care nursery. He has been pretty sick. And I actually think now I am only beginning to understand how serious it was. Now that he is improving – hurrah! – I can see how both he and we are treated differently by the doctors and nurses. Fortunately his size has given him the strength and resources to fight the difficulties.

Until today he has been on a respirator. They removed that this morning. So at last I was able to see his face completely (yep, he’s a cutie). There have been many milestones they’ve set for him and he’s really been blasting past them. But still it takes some time for him to recover. Now he has a device at his nose to help him breath, but with the breathing tube out of his throat he is actually able to make some noises. His throat is a bit sore from the tube so he is sounding more like a frog than a baby, but still it is wonderful to hear.

Things are very optimistic for him. We are still not sure when we’ll get to take him home, but a week from now is probably a good possibility. They need to slowly wean him from the sedatives they’ve had him on, finish his course of antibiotics, and slowly move him to lesser and lesser breathing aids. The doctors have told us that they do not expect long-term problems to result from this. So we are hopeful that once he recovers he will be a normal, healthy (and totally buff!) baby.

I was discharged from the hospital on Tuesday, but they have given us a room there so that we can stay and wait for Soren to come home with us. Now we are taking turns sitting with him and holding his hand or talking to him. He isn’t in an incubator (this little fat guy has no problem regulating his own body heat!) so we can touch him very easily. Even though he is in a pretty awkward place he is still able to know that his mommy and daddy are with him. I was able to hold him for the first time on Tuesday, and Peter held him yesterday. It is quite a production. One person moves the baby, another moves the breathing tubes, and another moves all the lines and cords that are attached to him. But that should be getting easier now that he is off the respirator.

We have been so grateful for all the love and support we’ve received from our friends and family! Everyone who comes into our room comments that it smells like flowers instead of a hospital. It looks so cheerful and beautiful.

We are still asking that people don’t visit us in the hospital. As much as we’d like to see you we really feel the need to save our energy to sit with Soren. Today is the first time that I’ve come home. I’ll stay here just long enough to hit the “Send” button on this email, and then I’ll be heading back. The message light is blinking on the answering machine, but for now I’m going to continue to leave that unattended too. So we hope you’ll understand that we’ll be thinking of you all, but will continue to stay out of contact for a while longer.

We are a bit tired, but that part is one thing that is a normal part of parenthood, so we are quite content with that!

Again, thank you to each of you for all the thoughts and prayers that have been said on our and Soren’s behalf. Some of our emissaries have been helping us get the word out on our little guy (thanks especially to Victoria for that!)

We’re looking forward to the day when we can show off the handsome new addition to our family.

With lots of love,
Amy, Peter and Soren

***

Tomorrow I'll tell you some of the details behind the scenes.

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tall Enough

Guess who is now tall enough to put money in the parking meter?

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Coloring Easter Eggs

We tried our hand at coloring Easter eggs this weekend.

Notice the tongue-of-concentration!

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Waiting patiently for just the perfect color:

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Our lovely Easter bouquet:

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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Egg Hunting

Soren's school had an Easter egg hunt this weekend at one of the teacher's house. Soren was absolutely beside himself with anticipation. His teacher, Miss Jemima, made him some rabbit ears that he barely took off all weekend (including nap time.)

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Waiting on the line for the great Easter egg hunt to begin:

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He didn't really know what to expect from the Easter bunny, but decided that he liked him in the end. "Mom, the Easter bunny is really nice! And he likes me!"

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Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Joy of Sharing

We went out for pizza on Good Friday. Apparently there must be some local tradition that everyone and their family goes out for pizza on Good Friday (who knew?), because the place was PACKED. While we waited for our pizza I pulled out some Easter eggs and the candies I had purchased to fill them with. But, alas, the Smarties I bought were too long to fit in the eggs.

Soren, of course, wanted some Smarties. So he had a few and then came up with the idea that he should give some to the girl at the table next to us. So he did. She was so smiley about getting them that he decided to give some to the boy at the table next to her...and so on and so forth until he had given Smarties to every child in the restaurant!

He really had a lot of fun finding children around the restaurant and it helped pass the time as we waited for our pizza. But what was really sweet is that the children in the restaurant started doing things for Soren. One girl drew him a picture of the Easter bunny, another brought him a balloon, and several children came over to say thank you as they were leaving the restaurant. Soren felt like a little rock star with all his fans coming over. It was so awesome to get such a positive response to his kind impulse. Nice when things work out like that.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Jumping on Furniture

When I was a girl it was absolutely forbidden to slide down the stairs, jump on our beds, or jump on the couch. Why was that? Does this cause some irreparable harm to the stairs or furniture? Or does it teach children some lack of restraint that will somehow make them into disfunctional adults?

This weekend we discovered that our couch cushions make great jumping platforms and landing pads.

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And that even if you jump 150 times into the air as high as you can possibly go, you'll still have enough energy for more jumps.

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Is my furniture now going to disintegrate, or is there some other reason I should be forbidding this kind of silliness?

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Until we come up with a good reason to forbid it, I think ours is going to remain a place where jumping on the bed, sliding down the stairs, and leaping from the furniture is ok. If you drive into the driveway and hear squeals of delight coming from within the house, that is the reason.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Still Loves Trains

Once again, I've gone awhile without posting about Soren's love of trains. Don't worry though, it is still firmly intact.

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Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Antarctica

When we visited Auntie Christine in the hospital the Discovery Channel was showing their awesome Planet Earth series. Soren and Christine enjoyed watching the segment on Antartica, though somehow Soren seemed to know a lot about it already.

Soren: Auntie Christine, Antartica is at the bottom of the earth.
Auntie Christine: Oh, really?
Soren: Yeah. And it is very cold there. So people don't live there.

They watched for awhile and then we left for home. On the way home we chatted some more about Antarctica. Then he went silent and I looked into rear view mirror. I could see the wheels of his mind a'spinning...

"Mom," he asked. "Is everything on Antarctica upside down?"

I didn't even know how to begin answering that.