Progress

I think measuring progress is a crazy thing.

In school, you take midterms and get progress reports. At work, you get reviewed every so often.

I can’t tell you how a “regular” parent measures their baby’s progress, because I’ve never known any type of parenthood other than this journey we’ve been on since August. Our little man’s progress is measured in homework and checklists from his therapists’ weekly visits and from the watching of a clock’s second hand, and then, if progress is good, the minute hand when a new task or exercise is being tested, or forced, upon our wiggle worm.

Sometimes progress is hard to find.

The ‘maintaining skill’ code on the therapists’ sheets instead of “I” for ‘improvement.’The screaming of a frustrated baby who wants to play. The silent tears of a mother who wants to play. The milestones on Facebook, photo albums and shared stories — milestones we haven’t met.

And I know…

…”Every baby develops differently…”

…”You can’t worry about that…”

…”You just wait and see what he does…”

But I can’t wait. We can’t wait. So we trudge forward, sometimes with excited zest. Sometimes with tired discouragement.

 

Then there are those times when progress, real progress, sneaks up and slaps us across the face in one excited accomplishment.

 

Tummy Time used to be absolute Hell on earth. Screaming. Tossing our head onto the floor and bawling from our little man. Or lying motionless and killing my heart even more.

 

Now it’s just about impossible to keep Zack on his back. Dude goes on floor. Five seconds later, Dude on belly! Smiling!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And now he’s started flipping from his belly over to his back, easy-peasy.

Sleeping? Now on my back, thank you very much, Zack says to the video monitor every night. When I open his nursery door, a smiling face looks up at me every morning.

 

 

This afternoon while I was working, my little co-worker fell asleep on his stomach — and stayed there, peacefully, for nearly two hours.

 

 

 

On Thursday, we had a three-month home visit by our Early Intervention coordinator. She watched Z-Man’s interaction with his physical therapist, who was so thrilled with the baby’s progress that she just kept exclaiming over and over again: “I can’t believe he’s doing this… he didn’t let me do this with him before… he’s never tolerated this before…”

I tried to keep a cool exterior, but inside I was beaming from head to toe with pure joy and pride.

After three months with EI (one of the best decisions I could have made in those first few numb weeks), Zack’s already accomplished two of his five sub-goals underneath the main goal of being strong enough to roll, crawl, sit, stand, walk and play. (Sounds SO much simpler than it really is.)

So we added a couple of new sub-goals and he’s cruising for success in two other categories any week now.

But it’s a long way to go. Even with all the excitement, it was only a “slight improvement” type of comment day for our physical therapist’s sheet.

This is not a finish line. I’m not sure there ever will be a finish line.

But there’s a right-now line. And we’ve left it in our dust, excitedly scurrying toward our told-you-so and knew-he-could lines.

 

 

We sit (with support)!

 

We have neck control. We track noises and sights with our eyes, back and forth. We roll and roll. We *almost* have that crawling motion down.

 

 

Oh but there is so much more. Just as we accomplish this week’s homework, next week’s session will come, bearing some sort of code and leaving us with yet more homework to humble us down. But Down is the new up, you know.

We parents, we progress real nicely, too. I almost wish someone had a code to assign to us, because some weeks (like this one), I can’t help but feel like I’m kicking butt, too.

And Scott is becoming a better father by the minute. To see him kiss his son and call him “my boy”… well, there honestly are no words for that one. That’s a special feeling I prefer to keep in my heart as I lean against a doorway watching my two guys interact with funny noises and smiles.

 

 

 

We rejoice. And we celebrate progress with our awesome, awesome SuperBaby.

Yummy in his tummy

I’ve mentioned before that The Dude has begun eating rice cereal. We give him the cereal about once a day and it has slowly become a hit.

He’s gone from fighting every spoonful and becoming a huge mess to opening his mouth in anticipation of that white gooey glory heading his way, to the tune of Momma’s annoying “Reaaaaady…. open! Ahhhhh…!”

We’ve upped how much of it we give him at a sitting and he’s doing great. It’s a fun change of pace from our normal bottle feedings during the rest of the day. And no matter how much he enjoys it, there’s still a lovely mess at the end… over him, over the feeder, across the high chair, over most of his clothes, sometimes on the floor… you get the idea.

I can’t help but smile during good ole suppertime.

Hitting the pause button

It is a glorious, much-deserved day off of work.

I’m enjoying THIS moment. Enjoying this absolute milli-second I am in. Enjoying it so much that I don’t want to hit the stop button. Stop would be delightful — stay here all the time, wrapped up in all this goodness that is making me a happy woman today. But stop is not good enough.

Pause is better.

Pause lets me take a moment to breathe in and out and hear myself do so before moving on to the next breath.

Pause let’s me see — really see — the first specks of light as they came through the living room curtains this morning before hitting play and wrapping myself up in the warm sunshine streaming through the stained glass windows here five hours later.

Pausing gives me sighs and barely audible stirs of the littlest man I love over the baby monitor as he squeezes in a few more minutes of sleep this morning and relishing in that joyful noise before hearing the cries that I can calm, the laughter that I can share for most of the rest of the day.

I’ve taken advantage of a fuss-free morning with The Dude who has entertained himself with his reflection and his new trick of rolling easily and pleasantly from his belly (which was an accomplishment in itself just a few days ago!) to his back. I’ve swept floors, dusted furniture, sorted through piles and completed a load of laundry.

And now I pause. 

The laundry basket is still at my feet, reminding me that the baby’s clothes need folded and then all of our laundry needs put away. There is an entire upstairs to try to clean, a dishwasher to unload and then, if I’m a lucky girl indeed, a book to pour over and a camera manual to sort through. I’m pretty sure my Syracuse bobblehead man is laughing at the huge stack that is the user’s guide for my favoritest toy.

I pause because there is a little Yorkshire Terrier curled up in a ball on the corner of the other couch, one eye toward me and my movements. An orange cat is purring in his sleep nearby. The rate at which I blow my nose from this three-week-long cold is starting to slow down and I can appreciate the cookie-smelling candle burning away in the kitchen, where I just made eggs at 11 a..m because I could.

I pause and admire the relaxation that Baby Einstein’s Lullaby Time really does bring me, even if I can recite the words by memory and list the songs played in order by heart. A top spins on the screen right now — it is so simple but so chaotic. Around and around, so quickly you can’t make out its pattern at first. And then as it slows you see red, and some yellow, a circle or two. It comes to a stop and you just admire and can’t help but smile. I am that top. I go and go and push and push and even if I come to a stop — or a pause? — I spin right back to where I was and where I should be within a second or two.

There is just enough snow outside to blanket our small-town world in a cleanliness I’ve never felt before. I can’t stop peering through the windowpanes at the whitened tree branches and heavy bushes.

I spent more than an hour on the phone this morning with a dear friend. She laid on the floor with me, albeit in spirit, as Zack and I chatted in a smattering of vowels and consonant sounds. She was there, like she’s always been. But it made me miss her more — and appreciate her friendship that much more.

I pause peering at our wedding photos. I thought that was the happiest day of my life, but surely today is, no? These quiet days of nothing much and not that important that fill my heart and soul with a loveliness that makes me feel so complete. I reflect on the man that has been my best friend for four and a half years and who became my husband a little over a year ago. The man who became a father five months ago but became a Daddy just in these past few weeks, as his funny games with sounds and exaggerated faces make me beam with pride. It has all fallen into place, this rag-tag team of three. We know our place and we love where we are and who we are.

And then there is my other man.

Despite stuffing teddy bears on each side of his head when I put him in the swing for this nap, he managed to squirm the “lovey” bear out and now his left cheek is resting on the plastic of the swing, mohawk coming oh-so-close to hitting the support bars of our favorite naptime apparatus. His right hand clutches “huggy” bear and his feet hang below, every now and then twitching with a dream. Since he woke up this morning, he has reminded me of my place in this crazy world. It involves dirty diapers and spit-up and stinky formula, yes. Oh, and the early wake-up calls! But, it’s so very much more.

Being a mother is the most fantastic thing I’ve ever done. Sometimes I forget and sometimes I let other people or other things make me feel differently. But they can’t take this away. Not this feeling. Not this moment.

And I pause to remember my own mother. I’ve been missing her a lot lately. I made it through the holidays rather unscathed this year, which is a feat in itself. But now, the crazyness has died down and in these quiet moments I pause, she is there. In the car with a silly old country song. Or in my mind, images and memories on repeat. How is it that she’s not here? That she can’t pause with me. It’s hard not to judge her and her decisions now that I’m a mother. It’s harder to forgive than it used to be, impossible to forget.

And now my ramblings have really let loose. Before I lose all control, it’s time to hit the Play button, fold that laundry, tend to the baby who is starting to stir. We will snuggle and laugh. Maybe I’ll clean. Maybe the dishwasher will be emptied.

And maybe it won’t.

I will definitely snuggle. I will definitely laugh. I will definitely be complete. And thankful for the pause.

And incredibly grateful that my son is accomplishing so many things in such quick succession. The belly time is GREAT. The lifting up of the head is HUGE. And the flipping onto his back just makes me so giddy. I was practically jumping out of my skin to tell the physical therapist yesterday and she was so pleased — especially when Z-man showed off his new skill right then and there for her. Every flip is a reminder that the screaming exercise sessions or the leg lifts sacrificing cuddle time are all well worth it. When I walked into his room this morning and he was on.his.STOMACH! I could have (and might have) done a happy-happy dance right there in front of his crib.

Maybe I’m naive, but it makes this “syndrome” seem a lot less horrifying.

It’s all just so awesome.

Q&A with our friend (and new mom!) Jodi

Another beautiful baby has come into this world! Little Owen G. was born Sunday, Jan. 9. He weighed 7 pounds, 12 ounces, and was 20 inches long. Mom Jodi and Dad Mark are doing great, too! I was saving my Q&A with my friend Jodi until she became a Mommy, so without further ado…

How do you know Wendy and Scott?
I know Wendy and Scott through my husband. Mark and Scott went to high school together. I met Wendy at a wedding reception about 2 years ago about 3 months before their wedding.

[Blogger’s note: I remember very little about said reception other than catching the bouquet and embarrassing my husband-to-be immensely and having an absolute blast with Jodi and other friends]


When are you due? What are you having? Have any names?
Our baby boy is due January 18th, but we are hoping he comes a little early : ) Picking out a name was easy, and we picked it out quite early in the pregnancy. We wanted a short name like ours and came upon Owen. The name stuck with us and we have grown to love the name.

How has your pregnancy been so far? Highs? Lows? How is it different from what you expected?
Our pregnancy was quite a surprise, but we are happy nonetheless. It has been a wonderful pregnancy and I cannot complain about anything. I did not have morning sickness or any kind of problem throughout the entire pregnancy. I am now two days shy of 36 weeks and feel great! Slight tiredness has set in, but I will continue teaching up until he comes.

How do you think you will be as a mom? How will your hubby be as a dad?
I have to admit, being a mom makes me nervous. It is completely different when it comes to your own children. Our baby will have two very loving parents who will want to do the best and whatever it takes. I know Mark will be a wonderful father. He is caring, fun loving and patient. We will learn a lot from each other and work together to raise a happy baby.

What are you most fearful of/worried about with the labor/delivery? With the first few months?
I am terrified of labor and delivery. I fear the unknown, and that anything can change at the blink of an eye. I want to have a natural birth, but whatever is safer for the baby. I am going to the hospital with an open mind about an epidural or pain medication. I will see how it goes when I am there and do what I feel is better. As for the first months, I am afraid mostly of not knowing how to calm our baby down if he is crying. They say a mother just “knows”, but what if I don’t? I want to believe I will know, but then again, I may not know.

What are you most excited about?
I am most excited about seeing my husband with our son. I feel it is going to be such an amazing time. I am excited to see who he looks like most and just being a family of three.

If you could get a truthful answer about ANY pregnancy/delivery/Mommy-related question, what would you want to know?
There are so many questions!! I want to know how long it is going to take me to heal and will I feel the same as I did before I was pregnant? I’m sure there are more, and I will definitely be asking you for advice. You are such a strong wonderful mom and I hope to have the strength that you do. : )

*Photos are courtesy of Jodi’s Facebook updates. I was given no permission from Jodi, but seriously, I doubt I’d EVER get permission from any new mom to share these photos. I promise to make up for it by baby-sitting and loving that little boy and making sure Zack is a good influence. 🙂

 

Welcome to the world, Little Owen. May your dreams be huge — and reachable. May your parents get lots of sleep and keep their patience. And may you make your mark in the world, little guy. You can always come to “Aunt” Wendy and “Uncle” Scott’s house if you need to get away from your mean parents! (haha!)

Five Months Old!

Our little big guy turned five months old a couple of days ago.

 

 

 

I think I just need a recording to play on repeat that says: I can NOT believe how quickly the time is going by already!

 

 

I sat down to write this post just now, amazed at all of the accomplishments and changes I’ve noticed these past few weeks when lo and behold, The Dude decides while frolicking in his rainforest jungle gym to show off for his mom and dad and he rolled over from his belly to his back for the first time!

And then he did it again. And then again.

Three times doing a new feat in less than five minutes. Showoff!

Actually, that’s typical Zack. We are already coming across delays and speedbumps that make it difficult to NOT compare with his friends, but we now know that the wait is well worth it. When Zack does master a new skill, whether it’s holding his head up or tolerating sitting up a little longer, he just zooms forward and makes us forget there was even a time that we struggled with the feat.

As I watch him pull with both hands at his sock, which is gradually coming off his foot, I really have to force myself to remember the not-so-distant past when we waited eagerly for him to reach for things with even one hand.

And the flipping over to his belly was impossible even a few days ago. Then, suddenly, we went from screaming through barely five minutes’ of Tummy Time to this weekend, when it became absolutely normal for time on our belly to be pleasant and active and last more than 10 or 15 minutes. He’s not just laying there on the floor, he’s lifting his head up and looking around and I can’t wait to show off this skill to the physical therapist this week.

We are coming up to our three-month mark working with our therapists from Early Intervention already and Miss Kathleen and Miss Sheri have become important parts of lives. Zack is more accustomed to both of them and works well with them each week. We had a lot of homework over our Christmas vacation and we worked this baby hard every day, to the point where my dad would be yelling, “My grandson’s sad! Get him up and don’t work him so hard…” until we explained these were his exercises and were important to his successful development. Soon, he and my stepmother were on the floor urging him onto his belly or sitting next to him giving him things to grab.

 

 

Our great Christmas adventure was an important part of Zack’s last month. He added more states to the list of places he’s been to (or through): We’re now up to PA, NJ, NY, CT, MA, WV, MD. Our little guy was a huge hit with all of the special loved ones we met along the way. He did well during the travels, considering he turned out to be dealing with his first cold, mixed up his days and nights and wanting some Momma Milk pretty much around the clock for comfort.

Speaking of Momma Milk… we officially ended breastfeeding this week. Momma and Baby are both handling the adjustment fairly well.

 

Rice cereal became a new staple of the boy’s diet, too. Momma and Daddy take turns feeding him spoonful after eagerly-anticipated spoonful, which is part mess and part entertainment. He’s doing great with it, though.

 

At our doctor’s appointment nearly four weeks ago, Zack weighed 14 pounds, 3 ounces and was 27 inches long. It’s a great weight and length and everybody’s pleased with how he’s doing.

It’s been a great time. And Month Six is looking to be pretty special, too.

Giving Zack and Nella a chance…

… to pursue their dreams.

… to push past boundaries.

… to prove people wrong.

… to do the things that makes others get those sad eyes because they think my son and a beautiful stranger friend named Nella can’t do them.

 

Another Mommy blogger with incredible talent as a writer, photographer and most especially, momma, included Zack in her recent post in honor of her daughter’s upcoming first birthday.

Please check this out.

I know money is tough. I know this isn’t JUST for Zachary. But it is, really. A donation to the National Down Syndrome Society helps all of the Zacharys, all of the Nellas. It helps their parents and their families, too.

My favorite Christmas present this year came from my cousin’s girlfriend, whom I haven’t even met yet. She donated to NDSS in Zachary’s honor. We have been so moved by that that there are still no words to express our sincere gratitude or amazement.

Kelle gives me  hope every week with her raw, honest voice and a peek into her world. A world that, like ours, included a diagnosis of Down Syndrome this year. A world that has been made better for it.

Thank you for those who  have supported us on this journey so far.

Thank you to those who ask questions and find answers.

Thank you to Nella.

And to Zachary. You make me a better momma, a better person.

The one about boobs

As I write this, I have a pack of frozen broccoli down my shirt and a generous glass of red wine on the table next to me.

This could only mean one thing:

Breastfeeding is officially over for Zack.

After five months, it’s just sort of run its course, especially as far as practicality goes for a full-time working mom in a profession that is anything but stress-free and anything but 9 to 5.

I never thought I’d make it through that first night or past the first week. Then I slowly but surely realized how amazing that time with Zack became — hopefully for both of us.

In the very beginning, the only time I allowed myself to fall apart with the cumbersome weight of a diagnosis in my perfect world, was alone with Zack in his nursery during our middle-of-the-night feedings. I would run my hand back and forth through his mohawk so many times that it still amazes me he has any hair left. I remember the first time I saw a teardrop land on his sucking cheek. I felt so silly, so weak. Then, just then, he looked up at me with those blue eyes and somehow everything was alright.

The moving up and down of his hands, clasping on to the corner of my pulled-up shirt, a zipper, a piece of hair. I stared at those fingers in absolute amazement for five months, imagining all of the things they would hold on to and reach out for. And oh my gosh, how it cracks me up when the boob comes out and he just lights up with a gigantic smile! Too, too funny.

I know I’m fortunate to have been given this opportunity and to be able to provide Zack with his Momma Milk as we’ve called it these past 20 weeks.

But giving it up is so much harder than I ever imagined.

You see, those 20 or 40-minute clips of the closest cuddles you can get, meant so much to me. I try to do as many of his feedings as I can now, but it just seems so impersonal. I cherish the snuggles he shares with me now more so than ever before. But my heart is heavy. It’s the first of many, many moments where I know I need to be a good Momma, put on my best smile and let him go. Let him do his own thing, fight his own fight, make his own dreams come true.

 

Some women deal with Empty Nest Syndrome. I’m dealing with Empty Chest Syndrome. 🙂

 

The good news? I can eat spicy food. I can take an Advil. I can wear any sort of shirt or dress I choose without worrying about how I’ll get my boobs out. I can drink two glasses of wine if I wanted. I can be away from the house and a pump for as long as I want and not worry about a leak or a wardrobe malfunction.

It gives freedom. For both of us.

Sometimes, you just have to move on. But it doesn’t make it any easier. Yet, just as I never thought I’d be able to survive going back to work, I’ll find a way to make this work, too.It’s not so bad after all, I tell myself. And I’ll believe it pretty soon.

As soon as I get the frozen vegetables out from under my shirt.